Tags : federal government

IRE Radio Podcast | FOIA Frustrations

We're back with another episode of the IRE Radio Podcast. This week we're focusing on FOIA. Here's the lineup:

  • Kirsten B. Mitchell, a former journalist and current facilitator with The Office of Government Information Services, talks about common FOIA problems and how to fix them.
  • Deb Nelson, Michael Ravnitzky, Charles Ornstein, and Jennifer LaFleur share tips on beating FOIA fees, arguing for data, and more.

You can find and download previous podcast episodes on our Soundcloud page.



Looking for links to the stories, resources and events we discussed on this week's podcast? We've ...

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A conversation with the federal FOIA Ombudsman’s office

Ever wonder what kinds of questions federal agencies ask FOIA liaisons? We did. So we went right to the source. Kirsten Mitchell is a facilitator in The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), a neutral office within the National Archives that anyone — requester or federal agency — can come to for help with the FOIA process.

Mitchell, a former journalist, will be available during the IRE Conference this month to answer questions about the FOIA process and help reporters with their requests. You can learn more and sign up here.

IRE student George Varney talked with Mitchell this week to learn ...

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A look at how journalists are handling the shutdown

Journalists have been searching for alternative resources after the government shutdown caused many online databases to go down and government offices to close as employees went on furlough.  For more information about how the shutdown is affecting news coverage, see the stories below.  

For information on closed FOIA offices:
Both the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and MuckRock are keeping lists of closed FOIA offices.  The FOIA blog is posting regular updates related to any effects of the government shutdown.

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IRE seeks Department of Justice records on surveillance of news organizations

The revelation last month that the Department of Justice seized phone records from the Associated Press turned out to be just the begining of major disclosures about government surveillance, which according to recent reports includes mass collection of phone and internet server data by the National Security Agency.

But the Department of Justice surveillance targeting news organizations carries dangerous consequences for journalists, according to the president of IRE.

“This is what police states do, not governments of the people,” IRE Board President David Cay Johnston said at the time of the Associated Press reports. “Journalists have a duty to watchdog ...

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Detecting lobbying in White House visitor data

A few weeks after I returned from an IRE and NICAR boot camp earlier this year, I got a copy of proposed changes to a rule for fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – for oil and gas on public land that was being developed by federal regulators.

Just about every change to the Bureau of Land Management fracking rule had gone the way the oil and gas industry had wanted.

After I wrote a story about that, I still had a question – what led to all the proposed changes? To figure that out, I turned to the White House Visitor Access Records ...

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Money trail for Sandy begins as Congress approves $51 billion in disaster aid

On Monday Congress approved $51 billion in disaster aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, three months after the storm that killed more than 130 people and caused billions in damage to the Atlantic coast.

Follow the money with IRE's coverage page, Hurricane Sandy: Covering the Aftermath

The spending was heavily debated and at a time sparked bipartisan anger over the inability of Congress to provide timely relief. In addition to a reluctance to add to federal debt, concerns about the bill from House Republicans centered on trying to make sure the money was actually being spent on emergency needs ...

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Resources for covering the federal budget, fiscal cliff

As the White House and Congressional Republicans inch toward an agreement before the fiscal cliff deadline, the opportunity remains for digging deeper into the federal budget and the impact of a deal -- or lack of deal -- on both the country's broad economic health and local communities. Find help in these links and resources.

A collaboration between IRE and the Sunlight Foundation, Econocheck is free to both members and non-members. It offers a wealth of data for covering the economy, including the following topics:

  • Jobs and Employment
  • Taxes, Government Finances and Debt
  • Health Care and Insurance 
  • Prices and Inflation ...
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First venture: Probing pipeline leak detection

I became interested in pipeline data after reporting on the Keystone XL oil pipeline. There was (and still is) a lot of debate about the pipeline's projected spill rate and safety. TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the project, already has one U.S. pipeline, which leaked 14 times within its first year of operation. I didn't know if that was unusual, so I wanted to compare TransCanada's record to the leak rates from other companies.

That story eventually proved too much to tackle, but it led me to another story about leak detection. As it turns out ...

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Adding depth to coverage of election results

For help in the scramble to provide instant results and analysis -- all while sorting through close decisions on the local and federal level --  check out these resources for adding depth to your election night coverage, the day after stories and long range post-election stories. Also, check out our look at data-driven stories leading up to election day.

What's being done

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Transparency Watch: What journalists need to know about FOIAonline

Federal agencies have launched FOIAonline, a tool that journalists can use to file, track and appeal requests for documents and data under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Here's what you need to know about the service, which was announced just last week.

Not all federal agencies are participating. Here's who's on board:

  • Department of Commerce, minus the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Labor Relations Authority
  • Merit Systems Protection Board
  • National Archives and Records Administration

You can search for other FOIA requests. This search for "pollution" turns up 31 results.

You ...

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