Although it feels like we’re just getting started, today marks MuckRock’s tenth anniversary. To our amazing team, past and present, as well as everyone who has used the service, read our stories, or supported our cause, thank you.
In March, to mark the anniversary and celebrate Sunshine Week, we’ll be hosting special events in Boston, DC, and the Bay Area. Join us by RSVP’ing for our Boston event here, or sign up for our newsletter to get details about our other gatherings.
When we launched, the Freedom of Information Act and its local counterparts seemed almost passé. Newsrooms I spoke with at the time had at most one reporter who regularly filed requests. While there was a vibrant community of requesters, it was a small one, often hidden within mailing lists, at press associations, and the occasional conference panel. For most of the public, if they knew what FOIA was at all, they thought of it as a specialized skill reserved for lawyers and investigative reporters.
We saw that, over decades, consequential reporting, organizing, and research hinged on access to primary government records. Transparency was a fundamental right and a necessity for an informed democracy, and our goal was to make it accessible to everyone, whether they were a veteran reporter launching a national investigation or a local resident digging into an issue no one else had raised. With MuckRock, we wanted to build the tools, community and reporting to make that happen.
Ten years and 75,000 requests later, we’ve made a lot of progress towards that vision. MuckRock alone has almost 30,000 registered users, and there are a number of signs that public interest in FOIA is higher than it has ever been.
For hundreds of thousands of people every month, we’re a first introduction to the world public records or a reliable reference, whether it’s through a guide to FOIA basics, taking part in a larger project, using our service, or simply finding inspiration and instruction from our repository of requests.
As we’ve grown, our understanding of the challenges facing an informed democracy has evolved. Access to information is just a critical first step in a larger process. It’s not enough to just make information public if it’s not accessible to the people who need it most or if it’s not given the context it needs to hold individuals and institutions accountable.
So over the next decade, we’re exploring better ways of putting transparency to work, whether that’s finding new ways of helping people directly engage with stories that matter to them, providing tools to better analyze and explore documents, or identifying information needs we can uniquely help fill.
Even as we get started on our next decade, what made MuckRock succeed for our first ten years — a mix of original editorial, mission-driven tools, and an amazing community — will also be what drives us forward for our next decade.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of that journey.
Image by Derek Kouyoumjian