After four years and some not-so-gentle prodding from the federal government, we’re giving in and finally updating MuckRock’s “About” page to better reflect what we actually do. If you can do it even better, we’ll give you some free requests.
The truth is, we’re not that great at marketing ourselves. It’s something we’re working on improving, but in general, our amazing users and readers have been our marketing team, tweeting out our articles and the requests they find most interesting, recommending MuckRock to friends and colleagues, and generally helping us spend our time and energy on improving MuckRock, the software.
But despite all the important and (occasionally just interesting) news MuckRock journalists and our amazing MuckRock users have helped break, we’re seeing a worrisome trend of federal agencies refusing to acknowledge that what is being done here is journalism.
That latter request’s “sufficiently large” supposed commercial interest? Wanting to know how much Homeland Security spends on first class travel.
Our users are journalists at news publications like the Boston Globe, Gawker, Talking Points Memo, and more. They’re independent researchers, activists, and think tanks, working to make government better, more efficient, more accountable, or sometimes they are simply working to better understand it. We publish our own original news roughly five times a week, and hundreds of other outlets have based stories on requests filed through MuckRock.
In fact, Homeland Security often cites MuckRock requests in its internal “Significant FOIA Activity” which detail potentially sensitive requests which might require attention of DHS’s press relations team. But that same DHS has deemed the site a commercial entity devoid of journalist purpose, in large part, apparently, based on our About page:
So, for the first time in about three years, we’re updating our About page to better reflect what we — and, more importantly, our users — actually do. We’ll continue to update it to better highlight the amazing work done by the MuckRock community.
In fact, we’d love to hear your thoughts on what MuckRock means to you. If you have suggestions for how better to reflect our mission and purpose to the Internet and our friends in the federal government, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we use your suggestion, we’ll give you five free requests and our gratitude. You might even be helping us open up agencies just a little bit more.