Fun with FOIA was actually … fun?

By Christina Elias

For one of my last APCDC sessions, I chose to attend the Freedom of Information Act session because while I know what FOIA is, I’ve never known exactly how it works and how it can be used. The presenter, Vince Filak of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, did a great job of turning what would usually be flat information about rules and regulations into an engaging explanation of our rights as student journalists.

In the end, he confirmed what I figured would be the case at Elon University: students at private institutions have less of a right to information, which can be difficult for us to work around in our reporting. But instead of leaving it at that, Filak explained some interesting strategies to try and obtain the records you need, like writing about the process of requesting to expose the lack of transparency on the institution’s part.

Filak’s remarks tied into one of the previous sessions I attended, which at one point the speaker emphasized the role official documents play in authenticating stories. I’m glad I attended Filak’s session because now I feel like I have a better understanding of another method for obtaining information to use in reporting.


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