I’m about to head to Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference next week and remembered that last year I vowed I would write several FOIA letters, both to see what databases I could get, plus to model good practice for students.
Eeks, it’s nearly a year and I haven’t done one. So I at least did one this week. I will be teaching arts journalists about how to get financial information and so I sent a FOIA letter to a state arts commission to get its budget and audit. My initial research showed the commission has been under some controversy lately.
I couldn’t believe how easy it was and how little time it took. I had a letter done in less that five minutes, thanks to the easy letter generator at the Student Press Law Center. You just fill in the blanks and it spits out the letter. I did a few touch ups and sent it right out. I couldn’t believe how easy and fast it was.
So don’t hesitate if you think it’s going to take a long time or you don’t know what to write. You can also find a letter generator for a federal agency at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press site, IFOIA (requires registration).