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Using FOIA logs to develop news stories

MuckRock – Strategies for delving into government filing cabinets by Yilun Cheng / Edited by Michael Morisy. “In the fiscal year 2020, federal agencies received a total of 790,772 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. There are also tens of thousands of state and local agencies taking in and processing public record requests on a daily basis. Since most agencies keep a log of requests received, FOIA-minded reporters can find interesting story ideas by asking for and digging through the history of what other people are looking to obtain. Some FOIA logs are posted on the websites of agencies that proactively release these records. Those that are not can be obtained through a FOIA request. There are a number of online resources that collect and store these documents, including MuckRock, the Black Vault, Government Attic and FOIA Land. Sorting through a FOIA log can be challenging since format differs from agency to agency. A more well-maintained log might include comprehensive information on the names of the requesters, the records being asked for, the dates of the requests’ receipt and the agency’s responses, as shown, for example, in a log released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency…”

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