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This committee is the watchdog of press freedoms across the nation. It relies upon a network of volunteers in each state organized under Project Sunshine. These SPJ members are on the front lines for assaults to the First Amendment and when lawmakers attempt to restrict the public's access to documents and the government's business. The committee often is called upon to intervene in instances where the media is restricted.

Freedom of Information Committee Chair

Danielle McLean
Investigative reporter
ThinkProgress
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@DanielleBMcLean
Bio (click to expand) picture Danielle McLean is an investigative reporter at ThinkProgress and chair of SPJ’s Freedom of Information Committee. Over the past five years, McLean has worked as an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News and has been published in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the MetroWest Daily News, the Milford Daily News, and dozens of weekly Massachusetts publications. She was ranked no. 13 in Scout Somerville magazine’s list of the top 40 local leaders in the City of Somerville, Massachusetts for her reporting at the Somerville Journal newspaper and has won the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s government, transportation, business and economic, and courts and crime reporting awards. McLean previously served as president of SPJ’s New England chapter, pushing for public records reform and a free press. Under her watch, the chapter won SPJ’s 2014-15 Circle of Excellence award for Freedom of Information.

Home > Freedom of Information > Sunshine Week > Quotable FOI Studies and Reports

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Your right to know  •  March 11-17, 2018

Quotable FOI Studies and Reports

Here are studies and reports that might lend facts and support for your editorials or stories regarding freedom of information. Check them out!


SPJ and the Government Accountability Project have teamed up with several other whistleblowing and media organizations to inform journalists on how they can safely work with whistleblowers, and have created a comprehensive case for why those brave workers who risk everything should be praised and better protected.



Sunshine Week

New for 2018: SW18 Reporting package
Sunshine Week Toolkit
Sunshine Week website
Chapter FOI program ideas
Campus FOI resources
FOI activities for newsrooms
Writing about FOI
Curriculum and classroom ideas for teachers
FOI resources


SPJ's Black Hole Award: The Society of Professional Journalists launched the Black Hole Award in order to highlight the most heinous violations of the public’s right to know. By exposing examples of unnecessary and harmful secrecy, we hope to educate the public to their rights and hold government accountable. To learn more, visit the Black Hole Award web page.

Reporter’s Guide to FERPA: Navigating the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act: Ever have a tough time getting public records from schools or universities? We feel your pain and are here to help you. The federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act has been twisted beyond recognition, keeping school lunch menus, graduation honors and athletic travel records secret. Take back your right to information with this guide, produced by the Society of Professional Journalists in conjunction with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

FOI not a media issue

This study by the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government showed that only 6 percent of FOIA requests are submitted by journalists. About two-thirds are submitted by commercial interests and the rests by citizens and non-profits. In another study by the conservative Heritage Foundation, only 5 percent of requests were found to be from journalists. These studies show that the issue isn’t about the government vs. media. It’s about citizens and the economy!

Longer waits for less information

The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government produced a report showing how federal agencies are increasingly taking longer to respond to FOIA requests and providing less. Also, The National Security Archives studied delays in access in a 2003 report, and then followed it up in 2007 with another report showing the oldest pending FOIA request (20 years) among others.

Mediation and ombudsman

A 2007 report, “Mediation without Litigation,” by Harry Hammitt for the National Freedom of Information Coalition describes state models for informal resolutions and mediation for FOI disputes.

Homefront Confidential

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press extensively documented the extent of secrecy since 9/11 in its large 2005 online report.

Access to court records

Harry Hammitt produced a 2006 report examining access to court records since 9/11.

Comparing state laws

Two studies rank the states’ open record laws and their openness. Check out the study by the Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Better Government Association and the 2007 report by the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Universities’ lack of compliance

A variety of studies have shown that universities often don’t comply with the Campus Security Act (a.k.a. Clery Act or Buckley Amendment) in reporting crime on campus. For example, check out a 2004 five-state study by Washington State University’s AccessNorthwest.

Public attitudes toward access

A half dozen public opinion surveys have focused on citizen attitudes toward FOI and press access to public records. For details, contact SPJ FOI Committee Chairman David Cuillier and see summaries of national surveys: at http://www.wsu.edu/~accessnw/news/survey.htm and http://www.sunshineweek.org/sunshineweek/scrippspoll07.


Click here to contact the Project Sunshine Chair in your state.


Project Sunshine
Information
A Winning Strategy


Freedom of Information
FOIA Home
News/Articles
Find FOI in your state
FOI step-by-step guides

Quill: Stories About FOI
– Meet the victims of violence against journalists
– World Press Freedom Day hits home
– Student press freedom laws gain momentum

FOI Committee
This committee is the watchdog of press freedoms across the nation. It relies upon a network of volunteers in each state organized under Project Sunshine. These SPJ members are on the front lines for assaults to the First Amendment and when lawmakers attempt to restrict the public's access to documents and the government's business. The committee often is called upon to intervene in instances where the media is restricted.

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