White Papers

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States failing FOI responsiveness —Freedom of information laws are only as good as the response mechanisms built into the laws themselves. After all, if citizens can't take action to enforce their right of access shy of filing suit, what good are FOI laws? When it comes to responsiveness measures, not much good at all. The Better Government Association and the National Freedom of Information Coalition have united to review the recourse afforded citizens in the public records laws of all 50 states, and the conclusions make for some relentlessly depressing reading.

Mediation Without Litigation (PDF/598KB) —40 years after the passage of the FOIA, access advocates are turning to state models for examples of how access to information disputes can be resolved short of litigation. While litigation is still the ultimate resolution even in the states, a number of states have both formal and informal processes that provide opportunities for dispute resolution without going to court. This report will survey the approaches taken by those states with both specific and informal dispute resolution as a way of better understanding what currently exists and what models might be adopted at both the federal level and for those states that currently do not have a mediation system of their own.

Federal Controls on State Information Disclosure (PDF/311KB) —Never before has the clash between an individual's privacy and the public's right to access been more apparent, or more misunderstood. The National Freedom of Information Coalition highlights that debate with the release of a new report examining public access to state records. The report, "Federal Controls on State Information Disclosure: FERPA, HIPAA and DPPA," by attorney and FOI expert Harry Hammitt, will be released to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government at its Nov. 17 conference.

Privatization: Its Impact on Public Record Access (PDF/324KB) —With the publication of Privatization: Its Impact on Public Record Access by Harry Hammitt, the National Freedom of Information Coalition is honored to announce the resumption of the FOI Reports, the last of which was written by Penny Loeb in June 1985. We are proud to add Harry’s discerning analysis to the proud tradition of FOI publications. In this, the first of a series of working papers initiated by the NFOIC, Harry examines how state legislatures and the courts have dealt with keeping public information accessible as privatization has threatened to change the freedom of information landscape.

Opening up State Government one Coalition at a Time —The NFOIC, which traces its origins to a 1989 meeting in Dallas, has driven the growth of coalitions. Now based at the University of Missouri's Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the national coalition passes more than $200,000 per year in grants to the individual coalitions.

Access Across America —Access Across America was a national FOI training tour for journalists in May 2010, sponsored by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, National Freedom of Information Coalition and University of Arizona School of Journalism to spread training in acquiring public records. Freedom of Information Committee Chairman David Cuillier travelled the country by car providing training for chapters and newsrooms. The intent was to reach as many journalists as possible, particularly those at smaller organizations who can’t afford to send people to conferences.