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's Black Hole Award: The Society of Professional Journalists launched the Black Hole Award this year 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. The Freedom of Information Committee accepted nominations for 2010 violations, coordinated by committee member Mike Farrell of the University of Kentucky, and selected the winner along with five runners-up. This award will be handed out annually during national Sunshine Week. Click here to read about this year's winner and the five runners-up.
Reporters 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 isnt about the government vs. media. Its about citizens and the economy!
Secrecy Report Card
A great summary of the state of secrecy today at the federal level is produced annually by OpenTheGovernment.org.
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.
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 dont 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 Universitys 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.