Getting More out of FOIA: NICAR 2017 Lightning Talk

Public records requests are a crucial reporting tool. But simply following the rule-book and asserting your rights under the law isn’t always enough to get you what you need (I wrote about this for ProPublica in our “Delayed, Denied, Dismissed: Failures on the FOIA Front” compendium of FOIA fails).

So I often try a different strategy: coloring outside the lines of formal FOIA rules to see if I can what I need by asking or saying the right thing at the right time. It’s arguably very situational and takes some practice. But sometimes, if you show some anger, a little bit of sass or simply pose a request in a way they typically wouldn’t yield you any results, you’ll be surprised at what can happen. Here is the full slide deck with all my tips and tricks.

I shared some of my strategies – with encouragement from the great Sisi Wei, thanks much! – at the 2017 NICAR conference in Jacksonville, Fla. The talk was very well received and, in some ways, therapeutic.

Don’t miss the rest of the excellent NICAR 2017 lightning talks, which you can view here.

Thanks for watching and don’t forget to join the conversation at #FOIAFriday on Twitter each Friday!