Every year, we celebrate Sunshine Week to honor the work of the journalists and private citizens who are utilizing the Freedom of Information Act to bring government records out of the dark filing cabinets where they live and into the sunlight.
The federal Freedom of Information Act and the state-level freedom of information laws make it possible for us to find out more about our government and learn about the inner workings of the organizations that keep our communities running. But as much as FOIA and the local FOIL statutes have helped us all, there is still so much work to be done.
Take, for example, response times. While most FOIA requests do get a response, on the federal level, the allowed response window is 20 days, while it typically takes 170 days for requesters to get a response. And that response isn’t always records — it’s often just a note saying “We received your request and will begin to search for the records you’ve requested.”
Then there are the requests that get rejected — more than 10 percent of all requests. Or the fees. While most requests don’t have fees attached, those that do can often carry a very hefty price tag.
To learn more about the state of FOIA in the United States, check out our handy infographic (below), created with data provided by MuckRock.
Jennifer Peters is former content manager of the News Media Alliance.