Freedom of information final


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Everything you have ever needed or wanted to know about Freedom of Information and your right to know.

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Freedom of information final

  1. 1. alliances in journalism Build a multi-platform story so it is sustainable. Someoutlets have used animated illustrations or cartoons. Build your audience and revenue by sharing stories withrelated media outlets (JRC papers) and others (NPR, TheDrudge Report). Cross promote work. Cross state lines. Share money to send reporters to do leg work Robert Rosenthal, Executive Director for the Center forInvestigative Reporting stressed that people want thenews. They don’t care about the source. Share resources. The goal of journalism: make a difference.
  2. 2. tackling the story Pair up with someone who knows how to work with data Get everyone to help with one big story to contribute ordivide up the aspects like environmental v. criminal Do a series to break it down into themes so you can providemore context and analysis Everyone is low on staff and time but New York TimesInvestigative Reporter Walt Bogdanich said that is no excuse.Reserve one day a week for the investigative story. Make atimetable. Find someone who is bitter and used to have power. Chat.
  3. 3. tackling the story, II Discuss key issues that could be resolved through data Record everything Outline the story so you know what questions you’llhave and you won’t have to call later. Log the times you try to reach someone and can’t. Obey the “no surprises” rule: everyone in the storyshould know what’s coming Work as hard to disprove something as you do to proveit.
  4. 4. anonymous sources Try not to use them; it can end badly in court. Try to get leaked info from an official/ on record source Readers are less likely to believe a fact/ quote coming from ananonymous source Ask for tips in the newspaper in a big way that can lead tobigger stories. Ask for tips in a big, obnoxious box on A1. For leaked documents: find out if the person in charge is pro-press or anti-press, does CT have a shield law, would the sourceagree to come forward if litigation ensues? If a document issealed, write a letter to the judge and petition to unseal it. If an anonymous source intentionally lies, don’t be afraid toburn them
  5. 5. computer assisted reporting Document Cloud: an online system that works likeGoogle Docs that can be used when you get a hugedocument dump. Best part? Other reporters can view it. Use a company or town’s retention schedule: Tells youall of the documents an organization keeps on file and howlong they have to keep them. Found online or by request. Search previous FOI requests on the FOIC website to seeif a precedent has already been set and you can prove thatyou should have immediate access to documents youwant.
  6. 6. searching the deep web Google has LESS THAN HALF of what is available on theWeb. Use at least three search engines. Any website you have to type wavy letters into, Googlecan’t see. Advanced Google Search: search a domain (.gov) or a filetype (excel or spread sheets) Twingine (side by sideresults),, (gives you advancedoptions), Complete Planet, Internet Public Library See my FOI blog for specific search sites.
  7. 7. database reporting Tools:- Excel Spreadsheets -used to sort data, make calculations, create charts, countitems- Mapping -Google Maps, ARC View -show where issues are (people near a nuclear reactor)- Build your own database - New Haven Register’s homicide blog When lost: - Request “record layout” field list or “data dictionary” to helptranslate
  8. 8. data dive Search for specific data: - - Search the file type and topic i.e. CT drunk driving and .xlswill give you excel spreadsheets about that topic Common database searches:- payroll and salary- parking tickets- business licenses- school test scores- campaign donations- government contracts
  9. 9. does FOI apply? If you don’t think an organization is subject to FOI, trythis test:- Check the level of government funding- Was the entity created by government or not?- What is the extent of the government’s involvement orregulation?- Does the organization perform a governmental function?i.e. fire department
  10. 10. excuses, excuses File complaints to hold officials accountable even if you don’t needthe information for the story anymore If they say the cost is too high, tell them to itemize it. Don’t put too much on one FOI request so they can’t say it wasn’tspecific enough An agency can’t charge the media copying fees if they don’t fulfill arequest immediately. Also, records are free to inspect. Ask for expedited processing so the request doesn’t take too long Beware of the glomar response: can’t confirm or deny anything. Write a story on the agency dragging its feet “Shall” or “Must” = record is sealed. “May” = can be disclosed Trade secrets are no longer secret if another party has seen them.
  11. 11. get your way Tell them to redact any sensitive information in thedocuments, then send it. For personnel files, in the state of Connecticut they have toprove invasion of privacy or you can have the documents. Agencies that are private or non-profit but are doing publicjobs, i.e. volunteer fire departments, are subject to FOI inConnecticut. Exemptions don’t mean someone is prohibited from giving itto you – they just don’t have to – so negotiate. If a police document is sealed, get the warrant. They arepublic after a few days of being served. Write about where politicians stand on transparency: askwhat are three things you have done to promote transparency?
  12. 12. Security Exchange Commission documents 10K: annual reports.- Description of business, income table, revenue, profits, balance sheet (cash and debt), litigation, proprieties, employees, risk factors, legal proceedings 10Q: quarterly reports.- Updates on litigation (only important law suits listed) 8K: special events.- Resignation of directors, key officers, earningsrelease, acquisition or sale of business, other key financialnews
  13. 13. Security Exchange Commission documents, II DEF-14A: shareholder proxy.- Bios on board members, bios on corporate officers, executive/ director compensation, key shareholders, related party transactions (conflicts of interest)- Tip: to find pay, search “summary compensation table”- And “non-equity incentive plan compensation” is code for bonus S-1: initial public offering- When a Company is selling stock for the first time, layoutof company’s financials and background
  14. 14. Security ExchangeCommission documents, III Form D: Stock sale by a private firm- Private companies report efforts to raise money, can be used to find out about new/ hot startups, list of key officers and directors Investor forms:- 13-F: Filed when mutual funds and large investors discussholdings- 13-D: when someone is holding more than 5% of an org.
  15. 15. story ideas Generally: things that upset you, things that break in yourlife, injustices you notice in your own life. Specifically:- Response times for first responders. Can find out if people aredying because of a slow response from EMTS, etc.- Stadium food data v. vendor inspection reports (sports)- Convicted attorneys in your county still practicing- School bus driver records v. driving records- Public Works Dept. and vacation days before snow- School lunch fat content- Bridges, dams, etc. falling apart- Who is double dipping in their pensions and disability pay?