You are browsing the archive for Access To Information.

The Center for Digital Information

May 22, 2012 in Craft, Distribution, Resources, Technology

The Center for Digital Information’s mission is to lead the policy research community — think tanks, foundations, government agencies, NGOs and educational institutions — in a fundamental rethinking of how it communicates its findings in a digital society.

While researchers currently rely upon an old model of publishing static documents online, CDI seeks to advance the field toward developing entirely new interactive modes of presentation that utilize the unique capabilities of digital media.

Through interactive production, collaboration, and leadership, CDI’s goal is to ensure that high-quality research remains relevant, engaging and informative to both the public and policymakers as they consume information in new ways brought on by rapid technological change.

The Center’s approach is based on an important distinction between “digital distribution” and “digital information.” Digital distribution is characterized by transmitting material via new media in forms borrowed from a pre-digital era: reports, white papers, articles, issue briefs, fact sheets, and press releases; distributed as static text and PDFs. Digital information is distinguished by communicating natively in new media, using the unique interactive capabilities of the technology.” Source: The Center for Digital Information

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

October 18, 2011 in Policy, Resources

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was created in 1970 at a time when the nation’s news media faced a wave of government subpoenas asking reporters to name confidential sources…

By the time executive director Lucy A. Dalglish took over in 2000, the Committee was poised to build on its considerable reputation. After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, the Committee became the nation’s leading authority on efforts to prevent important information from reaching the public. Its “Homefront Confidential” reports and “Behind the Homefront” weblog are authoritative summaries of what has happened to the public’s right to know in the post-9/11 world.

In recent years, the Committee has taken the lead in building coalitions with other media-related organizations to protect reporters’ rights to keep sources confidential and to keep an eye on legislative efforts that impact the public’s right to know. It also has aggressively sought opportunities to speak out nationwide through amicus curiae briefs filed on behalf of journalists.” SourceThe Reporters Committee

National Freedom of Information Coalition

October 12, 2011 in Community, Craft, Policy, Resources

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) is a nonpartisan network of state and regional open government groups and advocates headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, Missouri. The organization’s ongoing work is supported, primarily, by a $2 million, three-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. NFOIC’s core work and mission includes public education and advocacy to foster government transparency, especially at the state and local levels. Key components of that work are grant making, convening and other services that help to strengthen and support affiliated state and regional groups. Another signature initiative, since the beginning of its current sustaining grant, is the administration of a legal fund to fuel and assist the pursuit of important FOI and access cases.

The NFOIC serves as the cornerstone of the movement to protect the public’s “right to know” through access to governmental records and meetings, particularly at the state and local levels. It also seeks to be an effective voice and champion for greater government transparency at all levels by educating about and defending against constant legislative and judicial threats that would erode hard-won rights of access and allow more governmental secrecy.” Source: Ken Bunting, Executive Director, NFOIC

October 7, 2011 in Craft, Education, Policy, Resources

[] offers information on what data sets government agencies have. First of all, while governmental agencies collect a great deal of information, much of it is not available online. Nor is what is collected always publicized or well known.

This site lists what information is available. Think of it as a directory of information that’s collected by the state of Missouri. lists what data sets exists, what format the data set is in (i.e. Excel, Word document), the date the data was collected or time period which it covers, how often it is updated, any fixed cost for the database, the agency that collects the information, contact information and so forth.

Anyone can use this information, from citizens to journalists to businesses.

The site was officially launched in March 2011 and is the result of Herzog’s Donald W. Reynolds Fellowship. Herzog is a veteran investigative reporter, data journalist and educator. He teaches computer-assisted reporting (CAR) and data mapping to student and professional journalists.

The site includes an avenue to suggest additional data sets, comment on the sets and ways to use social media to share the information on the site. The site will eventually include a Sunshine letter generator to allow anyone to ask an agency to provide the information listed as available.” SourceColumbia Freelance Forum

Free Press

September 21, 2011 in Craft, Education, Policy, Resources

Free Press is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, quality journalism and universal access to communications.

Our Purpose

Media play a huge role in our lives. TV, radio, the Internet, movies, books and newspapers inform and influence our ideas, opinions, values and beliefs. They shape our understanding of the world and give us the information we need to hold our leaders accountable. But our media system is failing.

This failure isn’t natural. For far too long, corrupt media policy has been made behind closed doors in the public’s name but without our informed consent. If we want better media, we need better media policies. If we want better policies, we must engage more people in policy debates and demand better media.

That’s why Free Press was created. We’re working to make media reform a bona fide political issue in America. Powerful telecommunications, cable and broadcasting companies have plenty of lobbyists to do their bidding. We’re making sure the public has a seat at the table, and we’re building a movement to make sure the media serve the public interest.

Free Press believes that media reform is crucial not just for creating better news and entertainment, but to advancing every issue you care about. A vibrant, diverse and independent media is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.” Source:

Free Press Campaigns:

Save the News

“, a project of Free Press, is leading the search for new public policies to promote a robust free press in America. is a campaign to fight for better media in our communities. We are working to support innovative, quality journalism; to create a first-class public media system; to promote diverse and local media ownership that serves our communities; and to involve the American people in the process.

Journalism is a vital public good — not just another commodity. The Founders understood that an informed and engaged public was crucial to a healthy democracy; that’s why the press enjoys special protection in the First Amendment. However, the modern media culture bears only a faint resemblance to the vigorous and diligent press the Founders envisioned. The challenge before us is to identify the structures and policies that can help rebuild our media.” Source:


Change the Channels

“Media consolidation is a dangerous problem, reducing the number of independent sources of news—that’s why there are rules to control it. But media companies have devised a way around those rules, and are pursuing profits at the expense of the communities they’re supposed to serve. “Covert consolidation” takes many forms, but the results are the same: Media companies pad their bottom line by sacrificing local journalism, competition and diversity. In many cases, one news team produces a single newscast for multiple stations. The result: less news about your community and fewer journalists holding our leaders accountable.

Worst of all, stations claim they don’t have to report these deals to anyone.

At, you can join with others in your community to demand change at the local level. Help uncover these dirty deals; submit video and information to our national database; and take action to pressure local broadcasters. Together we’ll build a case against covert consolidation that the Federal Communications Commission won’t be able to ignore.” Source:


Save the Internet

“The Coalition is two million everyday people who have banded together with thousands of nonprofit organizations, businesses and bloggers to protect Internet freedom.

The Coalition believes that the Internet is a crucial engine for economic growth, civic engagement and free speech. We’re working together to preserve Net Neutrality, the First Amendment of the Internet, which ensures that the Internet remains open to new ideas, innovation and voices.

Because of Net Neutrality, the Internet has always been a level playing field. People everywhere can have their voices heard by thousands, even millions, of others online. The Coalition wants our leaders in Washington to pass strong Net Neutrality protections. We’re calling on the president, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to stand with the public and keep the Internet open.” Source:


April 6, 2011 in Experiments, Resources, Technology

The purpose of Data.Seattle.Gov is to increase public access to high value, machine-readable datasets generated by various departments of Seattle City Government.” Source: Data.Seattle.Gov

Josh Stearns Talks Independent Voices in a Consolidating World

March 28, 2011 in Blog, Interview

Josh Stearns

Josh Stearns

An interview with Free Press’s Josh Stearns by JA’s Tram Whitehurst

The Federal Communications Commission in January approved the merger of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable and Internet provider, with NBC-Universal. Stearns argues that the merger will transform American media, consolidating more control over more platforms in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations.

There are three important considerations for news producers and consumers in the deal, Stearns said.

First, Comcast’s agreement to help form news partnerships at the local level is not likely to take shape, he said. In a December 2010 letter to the FCC chairman, Comcast agreed to support partnerships in five cities between local nonprofit news sites and television stations for up to three years. Comcast specifically highlighted the partnership between Voice of San Diego and KNSD, San Diego’s NBC station, as an example.

“This was a last ditch attempt to win approval from regulators,” Stearns said. “It was primarily a symbolic gesture.”

Stearns said Comcast made no promises it would use the content created by the partnerships, and that there are no real assurances that the partnerships will even emerge. He also thinks it’s naive for Comcast to assert that it will create these partnerships within the next year.

“Building collaborative work takes time,” Stearns said.

Stearns also thinks the merger will have a negative impact on independent producers.

The merger will squeeze out already struggling independent, diverse voices,” Stearns said. “We’ve shown over and over that media consolidation decreases diversity in the media, hurts jobs and consumers and leads to more junk news, sensationalism and celebrity gossip — rather than real news and debate we need in our communities.”

Finally, Stearns said the merger relates to net neutrality and the future of the Internet. He said the FCC has little power to enforce net neutrality, calling last year’s regulations “toothless.”

Who controls the Internet is of vital importance,” Stearns said. “Comcast now has a huge reason to promote NBC content.”

Seattle Public Library Fuels Seattle’s News and Information Ecosystem

March 27, 2011 in Blog, Craft, Interview

King County Library

King County Library

An Interview with King County Library’s Marsha Iverson by JA’s Caitlin Giddings

“With ownership of information, you have vested interest in it.”

Iverson says when thinking of credibility, it really comes down to who owns the information that is being shared, and who is shaping it. Marsha Iverson is the Public Relations Specialist for King County Library Systems in Seattle, Wa. She is heavily invested in the Pacific Northwest Community and has developed a passion for library sciences and community journalism. She also runs the KCLS NewsRoom, which offers resources and services for journalists. We contacted Marsha recently to get her thoughts on newly established websites and credibility.

By teaming up with local public libraries, websites can do a lot to boost their credibility.

Libraries have established credibility and act as advocates to access information from all sides of a situation. They have access to information that is valid and verified through databases, explains Iverson. Plus, she says, the fundamental purpose of libraries if that the information is available to everyone for no additional cost.

It’s important to keep in mind how people screen websites for objectivity and bias, she says. People who have a vested interest in how a new website is posting facts have the ability to review searchable databases to verify factual information.

Iverson believes it is necessary for newly established sites to have a way of evaluating the sources that are cited in the posted information. The goal is to be mindful of what is going to bring users back to the site.

Partnering with libraries offers journalists an efficient and comprehensive method of fact-checking information, as well as locating primary sources.”