IRE nomination call for most secretive government agency or individual

The Golden Padlock Award. Photo: Travis Hartman Investigative Reporters and Editors is now welcoming nominations for its second annual Golden Padlock award recognizing the most secretive government agency in the United States. “This award acknowledges government officials across the country who excel in the art of suppressing public information,” said David Cay Johnston, president of…

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Michigan agencies estimate thousands of dollars for access to records

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration had preached transparency, according to the Lansing State Journal, but is charging exorbitant amounts for access to state contract records. The Lansing State Journal sought contracts from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, the repository for 1,200 contracts worth $32 billion between the state and outside vendors. The…

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Civil Beat in Hawaii announces creation of new public records law center

Journalists from an online news service in Hawaii have started a public service law center to help citizen’s navigate the state’s open record laws. Honolulu-based Civil Beat reports that Hawaii has decent public information laws, but in practice state and county government fail to follow and enforce the law. Patti Epler of Civil Beat describes…

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Countries with longtime FOI laws have less corruption, better human development

The Center for Law and Democracy rates FOI law effectiveness by country. Freedom of Information Act advocates have consistently claimed that institutionalizing the right to information will benefit countries, particularly in addressing corruption. They are not lying. By comparing indices on corruption, human development, and years of having an FOI law across 168 countries, I…

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FOIA Machine sees early success on Kickstarter

On July 16, a team of journalists and developers launched a Kickstarter campaign for a project called FOIA Machine. They asked for $17,500 to build a tool to help journalists and citizens request public information — a “TurboTax for government records,” the team called it. Two days later, they passed that goal. A week later,…

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Getting Past “No” when government pushes back

By Kathryn Sharkey “How many people in here have filed federal information requests … and how many of you have been told no?” The room, during the panel “Getting past ‘No’ when government pushes back” on Friday of the IRE Conference, was filled with raised hands and chuckles as Jack Gillum from the Associated Press…

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Finalists announced for Golden Padlock award

Investigative Reporters and Editors has released the list of finalists for its inaugural Golden Padlock Award honoring a U.S. government agency for its unrelenting commitment to undermining the public’s right to know. JobsOhio: Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature are nominated for creating a non-profit economic development entity exempt from public records disclosure laws, despite…

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Open government advocates say additions to California budget bill would devastate public records law

The California legislature has added wording to the state budget bill that open government advocates say would devastate the state’s public records laws. The added language would allow government officials to turn down records requests without written record of the basis for denial. Officials would no longer need to cite legal reasons for withholding information.…

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Fear drives lack of public access in Maine

By Judy Meyer Maine is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to public access. Blame technology. The very computer systems and databases created to improve the flow of information and ease public access are now being held up, by lawmakers, as troublesome portals to be sealed shut in the interest of personal privacy.…

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What journalists can learn from this year’s Sunshine Week

Journalists don’t need more reason to celebrate public records, but Sunshine Week provides a time for swapping tips and tricks, successes and horror stories. The EditorialMatters blog in Iowa spent the week posting tips like advice on requesting records, finding stories in those records, and avoiding all-too-common mistakes. Watchdog Wire shared their own tips on…

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