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FOI's... ever use them?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Evil ... Thy name is Orville Redenbacher!!, Jan 22, 2007.

  1. How many sportswriters have ever had occasion to use a Freedom of Information Act request?
    In the past we have used them on occasion to obtain a list of applicants for coaching vacancy.
    Most times we have been successful. One college flatly refused and we didn't pursue the matter. Most of the schools are cooperative.
    To those of you who have used them, how successful have you been and have you ever had to go to court over (sports body's) refusal to honor the request?
    The only incident I can think of was the fight to disclose JoePa's salary at PSU.
    Is that fight still raging? I never did see how much he was making a year.
  2. henryhenry

    henryhenry Member

    FOI is usually regulated by the Attorney General's office or the Secretary of State - find out who regulates it in your state -

    if a public agency does not comply in the time period cited by your state law - file an appeal with the regulatory agency -

    most public colleges are arrogant about public records - it's really fun to crack the FOI whip on them and watch them fold
  3. SCEditor

    SCEditor Active Member

    That's true. In my first full-time job, I covered a Division II school and was working on a story about college coaches' pay. After talking with several people, the AD said he really didn't want to release the salaries of his staff. "SCEditor, we don't like to talk about money here. In fact, we're not even supposed to release that information. It's against the law." Oh really? FOI-ed his ass the next day.
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    If you cover a public university and you don't use FOIs regularly, you're not doing your job...
  5. accguy

    accguy Member

    what mizzougrad said.
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I was going to say the same thing as Mizzou. Prep writers ought to get to know how to use them, too, just for fun.

    Oh, and Evil Orville, if someone ever flatly refuses to respond to the FOI you should not let the matter drop. You should make them give you a reason why they don't have to or make them fulfill it just to keep the next guy from pulling the same crap.
  7. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Most of the time, you don't end up filing the FOI. You just mention the letters and that usually gets the wheels turning.
    The real problem is the foundations. They aren't subject to FOI since they are technically private groups even though everything they do is in support of a public school.
    Pisses me off. Sometimes you can get 990s, but they can be pretty clever about that as well.
  8. dog428

    dog428 Active Member

    The FOI is the greatest weapon you have at your disposal if you're covering a public university. Hell, I file 'em constantly -- at least one every two weeks or so, just so I know what the hell is going on. I hear from a coach about something happening on campus, FOI. I pop into a Board meeting and hear something strange, FOI.

    My paper has filed court papers against the school I cover for refusing to honor FOI requests on four different occasions. Up until recently, they've always complied in the end. We decided earlier this year to push it a little farther and we'll be going to court next month for what I feel like could be a pretty important case for people in my state. We're asking the court to force the school to turn over a self-report and all communication between it and the NCAA. This report was used to fire a head coach and resulted in one of the longest NCAA investigations in history, which is still ongoing almost five years after it started with no explanation as to why.

    I think it's important because it will open up a little the very secretive process the NCAA uses to investigate schools. If this works in our favor, and I believe it will, most of the communication between the school and the NCAA during this process will become public record. Given the shady way several people have been investigated and branded cheaters without ever facing their accusers or having the opportunity to refute "testimony," I think that's a good thing.
  9. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    They are the income tax forms that non-profits have to fill out. They are available at guidestar.org and they show everything.
    Some Foundations are tax-exempt and that is what they have to send in. And they don't play around with the IRS, so it is exact.
    You can also get some good info from the bond prospectuses (SP?) that public colleges use to get money. Like if a university is going to spend money to add a new gym or an addition to the football stadium, to get the money they get bond, which is basically a loan. The bond company sends the report out to investors and it contains incredibly detailed information on what the school is planning. You can't get an open bond, it has to spell out exactly how every penny will be spent.
  10. Shaggy

    Shaggy Guest

    I probably do FOIs two or three times a year. Like Mizzougrad said, it should come with the territory.
  11. finishthehat

    finishthehat Active Member

    I'm curious, because I've never covered a college sports team: What do you FOI about so often? Budget stuff they won't release? Personnel stuff?

    I'm not being sarcastic, if that's how this comes across -- just honestly wondering what type of info you have to FOI to get (is it info that, say, a mayor's office would just give out routinely?).

    Or are these pro-forma FOIs, where you're dealing with mundane info but the bureacrat in question needs to have an FOI request to cover him/herself?

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