I'm entitled to a spreadsheet, dang it!
Public records requests for data come with their own unique set of challenges — from agencies that insist their databases can only export documents, to those that will only send a fraction of the fields that are disclosable under the law. We’ll give you tips on writing rock-solid public records request for data, and how to respond to the common excuses used to deny these requests. Topics will include: Common sources that prove the agency has a database and can export data; statute, case law and language to make it more likely you’ll receive data (versus a PDF, or even worse, scans of redacted printouts); how to negotiate the confidentiality issues that come with medical and educational data; and managing the mass FOIA request project. We’ll provide a sample data request, a few good war stories, and links to helpful resources.
Steven Rich is the database editor for investigations at The Washington Post. He's worked on investigations probing the National Security Agency, tax lien sales, asset forfeiture, policing and college athletics. He has been a reporter on two teams awarded Pulitzer Prizes, in 2014 and 2016, and on a team awarded a Peabody in 2018. Steven is a graduate of Mizzou and Virginia Tech. He was elected to IRE’s Board of Directors in 2015. @dataeditor
Sarah Ryley is an investigative reporter at The Trace, a nonprofit news outlet that covers gun issues. Previously, she was an investigative reporter and data editor at the New York Daily News, where her work triggered numerous policing reforms, including the passage of 22 laws, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. She has also taught data journalism and investigative reporting at CUNY and The New School. @MissRyley
Annie Waldman is a reporter at ProPublica, where she covers education. She has won two Education Writers Association awards and been a finalist twice. She was part of the ProPublica team that investigated maternal mortality, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2018. | @anniewaldman
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