Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘FOIA’

Public access likely to get worse

In journalism on March 16, 2017 at 3:23 pm

It won’t come as any surprise to journalists that access to documents, elected officials and the legions of minions who (supposedly) work for us is not what it should be. Thanks to Wick CEO Francis Wick, I now know it’s only likely to get worse.

Thanks, Francis!

Francis alerted me to this study released this week by University of Arizona journalism professor David Cullier. He interviewed 300 journalists and freedom of information types and found great pessimism when it comes to access to government. Among his findings:

  • About half of the experts said access to state and local government records has worsened during the past four years. They said things were just as bad under President Barak Obama when it came to the federal government.
  • Survey participants reported long delays in getting information, documents that had been overly censored, high copying fees, out-of-date government technology and public officials not knowing the laws.
  • Nearly nine out of 10 predicted that access to information will worsen during the next four years under the new presidential administration.

Cullier was clear: American government has become more closed over long decades. This isn’t a partisan issue. Experts, he noted, suggest we should all be taught how to file a FOIA request in school as part of our basic civics lessons in an effort to combat this creeping secrecy. … Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to The FOIA Machine

In Media law on July 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

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A Serbian guy by the name of Djordje Padesjski is about to rock your world.

Padesjski is the founder of something called The FOIA Machine, which seeks to aid journalists and others in their attempts to get public documents from public agencies that sometimes have a vested interest in making that as difficult as possible.

If you’ve ever filed for Freedom of information Act request you know that there is very little that is more frustrating. Some agencies have appointed someone to help with the process. Others act like they have never heard of the concept of public documents. There are exceptions and roadblocks at every turn. Multiply that by hundreds of government agencies in 50 states and dozens of foreign countries that have open records laws and you can imagine the heartache attendant to getting government to give you what is rightly yours.

But imagine you could just fill out an online form that would automatically factor in differing agency rules and track your request. Developers have referred to it as “a TurboTax for government records.”

Padesjski pitched the idea while a Knight Fellow at Stanford University and he made some powerful friends. He won funding through the Knight Foundation and now he’s got investigative journalists, coders and data experts working on a prototype as well as thousands to invest in developing the site and a vision that could literally upend the way we all deal with government. This is a really, really big idea. … Read the rest of this entry »

A vexing change

In Media law on August 20, 2010 at 8:23 am

Hey, are you a vexatious requester? Boy, I sure am. Just ask any of the aggrieved bureaucrats I’ve bugged for some document tucked in some back file somewhere.

The term “vexatious requester” surfaced in a new law passed earlier this year in Hawaii. That may seem a long way from your day-to-day concerns, but it could spread off the island, like Kona coffee and ukulele music.

The law is a response to multiple or substantially similar requests from individuals who are sure the nation’s 50th state holds some secret regarding President Barack Obama’s birth. You may recall, some folks are sure that he wasn’t actually born in the United States, and apparently some of these conspiracy theorists have been besieging the state’s health department with open records requests.

The law states that agencies can ignore such fishing expeditions that are largely repetitive and waste government time. For journalists, that could prove a problem. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the law defines “vexatious requester” as someone who files multiple requests that “after a good faith review and comparison” are “duplicative or substantially similar in nature.” … Read the rest of this entry »