Posts Tagged ‘MuckRock’


Must read FOI stories – 6/13/14

Every week I’ll be doing a round up of the freedom of information stories around the Web. If you have an FOI story you want to share, send me an email or tweet me.

  • A Circuit Court Judge will decide on whether text messages exchanged between government officials need to be released under FOIA in a lawsuit filed by PETA. The first defense the city of Norfolk, Virginia, offered was that its public employees don’t save their messages, then it said there was no way of retrieving them. Maybe their next excuse will be, “The dog ate ’em.”
  • FOI advocacy groups want to close loop holes in FOIA regulations. Advocates say “agencies lack penalties for withholding information, overuse exemptions provided within FOIA and deal inconsistently and unfairly toward requesters.”
  • After 10,000 requests, MuckRock files FOIA lawsuit against the CIA. You can read all about in their editorial, “Why we’re suing the CIA.”
  • FOIA request filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveals FBI’s Next Generation Identification facial recognition program will consist of a database of more than 52 million pictures. FBI Director says he doesn’t think the agency will spy on Americans with it. (Apparently he missed the memo from the NSA.)

David Schick is the summer 2014 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern for SPJ,  reporting and researching public records and FOI issues. Contact him at dschick@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @davidcschick

 

FOI Tip of the Week: MuckRock rocks the fine art of FOIA requests

FOIA requests are the bread and butter of quality reporting, but sometimes they can be incredibly annoying. Filling out the forms, hassling agencies to respond to your requests, bugging them again when they ignore your initial hassling – it can get tiring for a reporter who has three other stories to write by 5 p.m.

MuckRock, an open government tool, takes some of the pressure off of reporters by handling the FOIA requests for them.

To get your FOIA request taken care of, go the MuckRock website and type in what information you need. MuckRock staff helps with the rest, getting your request completed and providing the documents in a scanned and searchable format.

The website also provides regular updates on FOI issues on its blog.

You can also browse through the database of other FOIA requests that MuckRock is handling. It includes information on the statuses of various requests.

If a request has been completed that matches the information you’re looking for, you can check out the documents at MuckRock rather than having to file another FOIA request for the same information.

You can also see if someone else has submitted a FOIA request for the same data that’s been denied.

MuckRock was founded by journalist Michael Morisy and Mitchell Kotler, who has worked at various high-tech startup companies.

The Sunlight Foundation, which has provided grant money for the program, is among MuckRock’s supporters.

The next time you need to make a records request for a story, take a few minutes to check out MuckRock’s services first. The site could be a huge help.

– Morgan Watkins

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

 

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