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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sharing FOI wisdom: US journos show the way

Not much of a record here among journalists of 'joint shoulders to the wheel' to assist all-comers and particularly those in their ranks to broaden and improve Freedom of Information use, skills and opportunities.

It's a different matter elsewhere.

In the US the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press established 46 years ago provides pro bono legal representation and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists.

It has just launched a beta of its anticipated new project, the FOIA Wiki, a collaborative FOIA resource that “is part legal guide, part community space for sharing information that aims to serve as a central hub on all manner of issues surrounding FOIA as the law celebrates its 50th anniversary.”

Features of the FOIA Wiki include:
  • Pages on all aspects of FOIA, including exemptions, fees, and administrative issues. Thanks to a collaboration with the FOIA Project at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), most of these pages automatically display a list and summaries of all recent federal district court cases on the page’s topic, as well as including links to the full text of those opinions on the FOIA Project’s website.
  • A forum where users can post questions and answers about FOIA, as well as discuss problems or thoughts regarding particular records or agencies.
  • Entries on federal agencies, departments, and sub-components, which include contact information, links to FOIA regulations, and more. With the assistance of Muckrock, these agency pages pull in real-time statistics from people making requests via Muckrock’s services, including the agency’s average response time, the percentage of requests that incur fees, and the average success rate of requesters. Agency pages also link to the corresponding page in FOIA Mapper, a resource that details the agency’s information systems, helping requesters specify where agencies are likely to have responsive records. Finally, the agency pages also pull in the latest district court opinions from the FOIA Project, so users can see what has been happening in case law specific to that agency.

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