Next to the keyboard and the telephone, there probably isn’t a more important tool in the journalist’s toolkit than the Freedom of Information Laws—the state and federal statutes that proclaim the vast majority of information created or possessed by the government to be public property.
Not that journalists are the only ones who use the law. Unions, churches, advocacy groups and private individuals exercise FOIL rights, too.
At least, we all try to exercise them. It seems for every story where FOIL allows an advocate, or concerned resident or reporter to expose problems, hold power accountable or simply do their job, there is another where processing delays or government denials block access to this vital information. In recent years, even as there have been some improvements in access to local data and tracking FOIL requests, the city’s policies on police disciplinary files, “agents of the city” communication, mayoral emails and even records-office staffing have come under scrutiny.
Across the United States, March 10 through 16 is Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of the immense value of FOIL and the need for constant vigilance on compliance and periodic improvement of its provisions.
In that spirit, City Limits has teamed up with the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and other members of the local press corps to learn about whether and how FOIL is working in the city, and highlight the need for improvements.
It’s all about information, so we hope you’ll share some of yours, by completing the brief survey below.
The news outlets and organizations partnering on this effort will use the results to inform our discussions and coverage. As stated, we won’t use your name if you don’t want us to. (The contact information is only for use by City Limits, in case we need to reach you for additional details or confirmation.)
Never filed a FOIL request? Here’s how.