Data Deserts: How to Close Gaps in Minority, Rural,
and Indigenous Communities
Data collection and data reporting are unevenly practiced across the nation, with evident gaps affecting minority, rural, and indigenous communities. Such gaps can leave important stories, including the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and environmental inequalities, untold or underreported.
In the Data Deserts session from our 2021 FOI Summit, Daniel Delgado, research associate for the Brechner Center and NFOIC; Sarah Sneath, investigative freelance journalist; Sunnie Clahchischiligi, investigative reporter for Searchlight New Mexico; and Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, editor of Indian Country Today, discuss how to best close information gaps in minority, rural, and indigenous communities.
A lack of diversity in newsrooms exacerbates these data gaps. In the end, all people need to be represented in data.
“It’s hard to understand what systems are in place for Native people in indigenous communities and know how that will lead you to data.”
— Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, editor of Indian Country Today
Start the new year off right — by supporting the right to know. Please consider a donation to the NFOIC. Your contribution helps support the National Freedom of Information Coalition and its members in the work we do to keep government open, accessible, and accountable. Your gift will help us:
Support open government advocates and journalists across the U.S.
Research trends and policies around public records and meetings.
Educate government agencies to properly administer transparency and FOI requirements.
Administer the Knight FOI Litigation Fund, which offers financial support in open government lawsuits.
NFOIC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Fourth annual NFOIC competition invites
research proposals focused on FOI, technology
The fourth annual National Freedom of Information Coalition research competition welcomes one-page proposals for papers that shed light on freedom of information, particularly those focusing on technology and FOI.
Authors are invited to submit a one-page paper proposal, which will be reviewed by a panel of freedom of information researchers. Proposals should include a one-paragraph abstract/summary, a paragraph outlining the proposed methodology, and a paragraph explaining the relevance of the potential findings for government agencies, FOI advocates, and access practitioners (e.g., journalists, citizens, record custodians).
Proposals may encompass any research methodological approach (legal, survey, experimental, content analysis, etc.), and should provide insights of practical value for those who work day-to-day in access to government information.
Kentucky coalition launches website,
providing updates and opinions on legislation
The Kentucky Open Government Coalition has launched a website, which features blog posts on issues of transparency, updates and opinions on legislation, and information about the coalition and how to support it.
The Kentucky coalition was established in 2019.
“Our goal is to galvanize supporters of the public’s right to know how state and local government conducts the public’s business through a citizen-based coalition — the first of its kind in Kentucky,” according to the group’s website. The Kentucky coalition is a member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
Note: At a Nov. 29, 2021, meeting, the NFOIC Board voted to lift the cap on Knight FOI Litigation Fund grants, from $5,000 to $10,000. As of Dec. 1, 2021, the Litigation Fund balance stood at $595,123.
Audit of Maine police agencies produces
inconsistent results; 1 in 5 didn’t respond
When law enforcement agencies across Maine were asked to turn over records of complaints and discipline, some departments provided a bundle of records, some provided basic information — and one in five did not respond at all.
That’s according to an audit conducted by the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, a member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. The Maine coalition last year sent Freedom of Access Act requests to 135 law enforcement agencies in the state. The law requires police agencies to provide records of people’s complaints and disciplinary letters.
“The problem, I think, is that having records is not perceived to be a core responsibility for a lot of agencies,” said Jim Campbell, president of the Maine coalition. “To their mind, dealing with the everyday things they have to deal with, it’s just one more dumb thing that they have to pay attention to. Except it isn’t a dumb thing.”
The results of the audit, including a searchable table of responses, were reported Jan. 7, 2022, in the Sun Journal and other newspapers in Maine.
Journalists banned from Iowa Senate floor; transparency advocates raise concerns
Republican leaders in Iowa have banned journalists from the Senate floor, a break from a 140-year tradition that raises alarms among freedom of information advocates, The Washington Post reported Jan. 8, 2022.
During the state’s 2022 legislative session, reporters will be barred from press benches near senators’ desks. Reporters told The Post that proximity to the lawmakers allows for more accurate coverage, as they are able to see and hear everything and get answers and clarifications during debate.
“When you take journalists and restrict their access and then you couple that with changes that have occurred in the past couple of years with procedures in Iowa, it makes it that much harder for the public to know what’s going on,” said Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, a member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
A 2021 survey of state coalitions for open government showed that the
greatest threats to government transparency today are legal exemptions primarily focused on protecting individual privacy. Learn how NFOIC members protect the public's right to know. Click the image above to download a PDF
of "States of Denial."