We’ve talked before about how to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get better information for your beats, but now that you have all that information, what happens next? That’s where Logikcull comes in, an automated document search and discovery tool that helps unearth the particular information you’re looking for, so you can get on with your story.
Logikcull began as eDiscovery software for legal teams, but it was found to be useful for those digging through FOIA documents, too. “The public needs to know things sooner rather than later, and yet journalists can’t get those stories out faster because of the inefficiencies in the story discovery process,” says Logikcull cofounder Andy Wilson. “That’s bad for journalism and it’s bad for democracy.”
FOIA requests can often be duds, with the majority of pages redacted. But there are also plenty of requests that result in real information being released; MuckRock has tracked more than 2 million pages of FOIA-released information. Logikcull makes the job of sifting through all those pages easier by making every document searchable — from basic Word documents to PDFs, handwritten notes and images with text.
“Sometimes governments will dump a lot of data or make it really unusable to try to slow you down,” Wilson says. “It’s no different from the litigation tactic where you drown your adversaries in so much information that you delay the action or force them to settle because they can’t get through the information as fast as they need to.”
Logikcull seeks to make the grueling process of reviewing faster, easier and affordable.
The first major story that Logikcull helped break came when Eric Lipton of The New York Times received a cache of files about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) following a FOIA request by the Sierra Club. Lipton used Logikcull to pore through the files and dig up the most relevant emails for his story.
Since Lipton’s story broke, Wilson says he’s seen more interest in Logikcull from other journalists, and he’s hopeful that they’ll be able to use his company’s software to expose even more stories through FOIA.
Journalists can sign up and use Logikcull for free — but with a limited amount of upload data. In return, the company just asks that, when appropriate, journalists credit Logikcull for its help in unearthing stories.
Jennifer Peters is former content manager of the News Media Alliance.