The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

The Art of Access

Erik Sofranko

Posted on August 30, 2020 01:43

0 user

The Art of Access is a book that gives strategies for how to obtain desired public records, which is useful for not only investigative journalists but also citizens who desire to be more informed about the secrets of government affairs.

The Art of Access lays out different strategies for using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

It can be incredibly arduous process for journalists to successfully request public records from government agencies. Journalists are frequently illegally denied access to the documents that they request even though the law permits their access. The federal government can be especially slow at responding to FOIA requests because of how large the bureaucracy is.

This helps further the need for journalists to be persistent at obtaining public records and not settle for long delays in the process because one of the critical news values in journalism is timeliness. A news story might only have significant public interest if it delivered in a timely manner, which can be hindered if a FOIA request is delayed or simply ignored, even if a journalist’s request is completely lawful.

There are many different reasons a journalist may decide to file a FOIA request, such as access to police records, air quality reports, and many other key sources of information that are held by government agencies.

It can be difficult for an average citizen or a journalist from a smaller publication to obtain a FOIA record after it has been illegally denied, because the government knows that most people do not have the time or money to spend on attorneys to take them to court to be formally awarded access to the information.

A FOIA request may be more likely granted if it done in a way that is more convenient to the agency. Electronic copies of records are easier to obtain than hard copies because agencies may want to charge money for the inconvenience of producing hard copies.

Even if a journalist is illegally denied a FOIA request, he or she still has the power through their publication to put public pressure on the agency to eventually release the information. A journalist can expose a government agency through a published story claiming that his or her right to a public record has been denied and that the government is breaking the law.

An agency may be more willing to act quickly on the request if they have an incentive to do so, such as proving to the public that they actually are transparent public servants.

It is also beneficial if a journalist has some kind of relationship with someone in an agency who is able to release records upon request. A journalist may not have to go through the FOIA process if someone in an agency is willing to share the information with the journalist in the most expedient way possible as FOIA requests can sometimes take months to fulfill.

Overall, it is unfortunate that government agencies, local, state, and federal, are not always transparent and do not always follow the FOIA laws that guarantee citizens legal access information that should be public knowledge. This only contributes to the increasing distrust the public has in public institutions. 

Erik Sofranko

Posted on August 30, 2020 01:43

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Forbes

Some journalists are vowing to "make FOIA great again" by peppering the new Trump administration with FOIA requests to insure...

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest