Posts Tagged ‘Missouri School of Journalism’

Wacky FOI denials: Dead giraffes have privacy rights

Giraffes have rights, too.

This week we will look back at wacky Freedom of Information requests or denials. Today’s denial was sent in by Charles Davis, associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and SPJ Freedom of Information committee member.

A reporter requesting a dead giraffe’s medical records was denied access because of the animal’s privacy rights.

After the death of Ryma in 2002, a giraffe  housed in  Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Washington Post reporter D’Vera Cohn requested the necropsy and pathology reports and the animal’s medical records.

The National Zoo rejected the request out of respect for the dead giraffe’s privacy, said Lucy Spelman, National Zoo director at the time, The Washington Post reported.

However, this denial had some animal rights supporters scratching their heads, including Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law. Tribe supported legislation allowing legal representation for animal rights.

“It is sort of the fox guarding the hen house,”  he said of the National Zoo.  “They are clearly the ones whose neglect or mistreatment might be at issue.”

Post reporter Cohn had few options after the denial because the Smithsonian is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, the Washington Post explained, because although federally funded, the Smithsonian does not belong of the Executive branch.

Despite this, the Smithsonian has a disclosure policy and has responded to other requests for information, the Post reported.

For the full article, click here.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with the Society of Professional Journalists. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email – –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

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FOI Tip of the Week: FOI Center resources varied and helpful

Need to beef up your FOI knowledge?

Swing by the website for the FOI Center, a reference and research library at the Missouri School of Journalism and headquarters for the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Writing your first or fourth or 50th FOIA letter and want to compare yours with a few samples to make sure you’ve got it right? The center’s site has several.

Need a quick way to access information on your state’s access laws? It’s got plenty of links for that too. (You can also check out SPJ’s state FOI resources listing if you want some extra FOI goodness.)

Want the skinny on key media law issues? The center compiled links about a variety of topics that can help you see past the legal mumbo-jumbo to the core of the issues.

So the next time you’ve got a FOI question or need to find an open access resource, click on over to the FOI Center’s website for a quick fix.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).


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