The art of access: Strategies for acquiring public records in an increasingly anti-media world

By Ashley Sutherland, Arizona State University Delays. Excessive redactions. Fees. These are just some of the issues journalists and other citizens face when requesting public records from the government. David Cuillier, director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, and Miranda Spivack, a professor of journalism at DePauw University, offered tips and strategies on how…

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IRE Radio Podcast | BONUS: The State of the FOIA

It’s been 50 years since the federal Freedom of Information Act was signed into law. A lot’s happened since then – not all of it good for the press. We’re calling this bonus episode “The State of the FOIA” because, over the next 30 minutes, we’ll be talking to three experts to figure out what…

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Moving the needle on freedom of information – your insights needed for Knight study

The Knight Foundation wants to know what you think about the state of access to public records at the federal and state/local levels. Anyone interested in FOI – journalists, access professionals, librarians and others – are invited to share their thoughts. The online survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and will be open until Jan.…

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Six lessons from a five-year FOIA battle

By Philip Eil, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on September 28, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. I filed my first Freedom of Information Act request on February 1, 2012. I was 26 years old, and chasing a story about my father’s med-school classmate, Dr. Paul Volkman, who had been convicted of a…

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Will a new law really make Illinois’ FOIA stronger? Journalists there aren’t so sure

By Jackie Spinner, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on August 16, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. This summer, the Illinois Legislature stiffened the penalties that can be imposed on public bodies that refuse to comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Act. HB 4715, part of a two-bill package known as “Molly’s…

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How one paper filed a FOIA request in Michigan—and got sued by the county

By Jonathan Peters, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on August 2, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. Michigan’s primary elections, taking place today, may offer few competitive races. But one of them has offered a look at an unusual type of legal action—one in which a government entity sues a local media outlet in response…

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Experts share tips for prying records out of government agencies

By Andrew Kreighbaum Working on a beat where most sources prefer to remain anonymous, VICE News reporter Jason Leopold has turned to extensive and aggressive FOIA work to get officials on the record. Leopold, who covers national security, said he has 1,500 FOIA requests out at any one time. “I then seek out the people…

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IRE Radio Podcast | BONUS: Tips from a FOIA Terrorist

You’ve probably heard of Jason Leopold, even if his name doesn’t immediately ring a bell. He’s the journalist who forced the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails. He’s also unearthed shocking details on CIA torture and spying. Jason works at VICE News, and he’s the master of the federal FOIA request. In fact, he’s such a…

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IRE Preview: How to fight (and win) open records battles

Get the tools and inspiration you need to successfully fight for records at the IRE Conference in June. Jason Leopold, a self-described FOIA terrorist and a winner of this year’s IRE FOI Medal, will share his strategies and advice on how to wrangle information from recalcitrant officials. He’ll be joined by Brandon Smith, the journalist…

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How ‘the public is priced out of public records’ by Michigan universities

By Anna Clark, CJR Editor’s Note: This article first ran on April 5, 2016 on the Columbia Journalism Review’s website. In Michigan, transparency comes at a cost—and a seemingly arbitrary one at that. The Society of Professional Journalists chapter at Central Michigan University recently conducted a FOIA audit of the state’s 15 public universities. It asked for…

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