In her first six months working at ProPublica, data reporter Sandhya Kambhampati sent more than 1,018 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to government bodies, from the US Department of Transportation to the state lottery.
In this article on ProPublica, Kambhampati outlines what she's learned about FOI in the process, and provides three tips for reporters seeking to obtain information in the public interest. Although she works in the US, her advice can be applied by journalists working with FOI in the UK and elsewhere as well.
She recommends thinking about how an agency might respond and what objections they might raise to each request, being prepared by knowing the exemptions to the law that would allow them to withhold information, as well as creating a system for monitoring the requests you've submitted.
One important point she makes: journalists should remember "there's a human being behind every record and document", so being nice helps, and so does coming up with specific tactics for reaching out to various departments.
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