How Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press can help with FOIA

Couldn’t make our recent FOIA chat with RCFP? Here are the tips and tricks shared by Adam Marshall and Jenn Topper

Written by Michael Morisy
Edited by JPat Brown

If you’re trying to master the art of public records, there are few better places to start than the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. Since 1970, the non-profit has served reporters across the country in fighting to open up government - while pushing back against censorship attempts and other threats to press freedom.

Here are tips and resources from our April 28th, 2017 Slack FOIA Chat with RCFP’s Adam Marshall and Jenn Topper.

So what is the RCFP?

As Topper explained, RCFP is a non-profit working on issues ranging from national security and surveillance to open records and FOIA — and lots in between. To support that mission, RCFP offers a variety of forms of assistance from online resources to a legal defense hotline and a steady supply of amicus briefs.

Aside from the organization’s website at RCFP.org, they’re also on Facebook and on Twitter.

For federal requests, enter the FOIA.wiki

Working with a number of partners (including MuckRock!), RCFP launched FOIA.Wiki last October.

“It’s exactly what it says it is: Wikipedia but for the federal FOIA,” explained Marshall. The site has guides on everything from how to do administrative appeals to tips and details on dealing with specific agencies, as well as resources on specific exemptions.

RCFP is looking for contributors to help keep improving the site, with lawyers highlighting relevant legal cases and journalists providing practical tips.

State and local public records resources

The RCFP has detailed guides to every state’s public records law, including case citations and details on everything from appeal rights to fees, at its Open Government Guide. The guides are amazing resources to those getting started with local public records.

For online journalists, Topper also recommends checking out RCFP’s Digital Journalist’s Legal Guide, while everyone can take advantage of the First Amendment Handbook.

And if things get really tricky, RCFP also offers a legal hotline, which sometimes can offer referrals to local attorneys.

Make sure to join us for our next Slack FOIA Chat! Details and registration here.


Image via RCFP.org