Using FOIA More Effectively

How to get the most out of the FOI Act to find data and scoops for your journalism.

BOOKINGS ARE NOW CLOSED FOR THIS COURSE.

If you are interested in attending future versions of this course, please email tom@tcij.org.

Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. 

I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head ’til it drops off. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.

Tony Blair, 2010
 

One of the most important skills for journalists today is knowing how to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Most journalists have come across FOIA and many will have submitted a request or two.

However, few reporters use it as effectively as they could, or realise its full journalistic potential.

It can be difficult to know what to do or how to take the next steps when you’re hit with an exemption, but our expert trainers can help. With years of experience (and many FOI battles) behind them, they’ll teach you how to carefully craft your requests to give yourself the best chance of avoiding common FOI obstacles, as well as arm you to argue your case in the public interest when you need to.

Other aspects covered will be how to plan and execute a full FOI project which seeks to get information from public bodies across the country, tips and tricks to save you time, and how to argue against FOI exemptions. We’ll look at making requests under the lesser-known Environmental Information Regulations and cover the possibilities for sending freedom of information requests around the world. We will also look at another powerful journalistic tool – Subject Access Requests – where the Data Protection Act enshrines our right to access our personal information from public bodies and private companies.

There’ll be time towards the end of the day to get expert guidance and troubleshooting on your previous requests or FOI projects you’re planning, in which we’ll also demonstrate the functions of WhatDoTheyKnowPro, a journalism-focused version of the popular FOI request platform which allows you to keep your requests private until you’re ready to publish and has specific tools to make batch requests to many authorities much simpler.