33 min

What is a FOIA Anyway? Why Don’t We Know Podcast

    • Government

This entire podcast hinges on data that we got, or didn’t get, from public records requests. The ability to request records from public institutions is part of the law, and in theory, should take a few weeks, at best. But after nine months we still hadn’t received some documents.Episode 5 of Why Don’t We Know explores what we found about how open records offices are undervalued and understaffed compared to other major public information offices at universities -- like the media relations offices.“It's low priority in agencies,” says Dave Cuiller, president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. “I mean, it's not in their best interest to give out information that they don't want out. So it's very convenient to under-staff that office.”We ran into all kinds of tactics that agencies routinely use to keep the public from getting information that should be public: delays, fees, misapplication of the law, and flat-out ghosting -- just ignoring our request entirely.“Fifty-plus years into the Freedom of Information Act ... we are still experiencing agencies that just blow this off, that consider ‘Right To Know’ to be right to N-O. And we're, we're far beyond sugarcoating this,” said Terry Mutchler, a former journalist-turned media law attorney who is now a partner with Dilworth Paxson law firm in Pennsylvania.

This entire podcast hinges on data that we got, or didn’t get, from public records requests. The ability to request records from public institutions is part of the law, and in theory, should take a few weeks, at best. But after nine months we still hadn’t received some documents.Episode 5 of Why Don’t We Know explores what we found about how open records offices are undervalued and understaffed compared to other major public information offices at universities -- like the media relations offices.“It's low priority in agencies,” says Dave Cuiller, president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. “I mean, it's not in their best interest to give out information that they don't want out. So it's very convenient to under-staff that office.”We ran into all kinds of tactics that agencies routinely use to keep the public from getting information that should be public: delays, fees, misapplication of the law, and flat-out ghosting -- just ignoring our request entirely.“Fifty-plus years into the Freedom of Information Act ... we are still experiencing agencies that just blow this off, that consider ‘Right To Know’ to be right to N-O. And we're, we're far beyond sugarcoating this,” said Terry Mutchler, a former journalist-turned media law attorney who is now a partner with Dilworth Paxson law firm in Pennsylvania.

33 min

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