FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

November 15, 2013 10:52 AM

From The Daily Progress: The Virginia Coalition for Open Government has announced the recipients of its annual open government awards.

At its conference next month, the coalition will honor Washington Post reporters Laura Vozzella and Rosalind Helderman, who used public records to unearth Gov. Bob McDonnell's gift scandal; Fairfax County Clerk of Court John Frey, who has made county court opinions available to the public without charge; and Charles Landis, of Onancock, who successfully represented himself in two Freedom of Information lawsuits in 2012 and 2013.

The recipients will be honored at the coalition’s annual conference Dec. 6 at the Williamsburg Community Building.

To register for the event, which is open to the public, go to

Visit The Daily Progress for more.

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds



September 20, 2013 9:27 AM

From New England First Amendment Coalition: PROVIDENCE, R.I. - James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who's done ground-breaking work on domestic spying and now faces legal peril for refusing to disclose the source for his account of a failed CIA operation in Iran, will receive the 2014 Stephen Hamblett Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition.

An investigative reporter for The New York Times, Risen was told by a divided 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to identify his source and testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who's charged with leaking classified information to Risen in violation of the Espionage Act, a dusty law cited with new frequency by the administration in efforts to crack down on leakers. Risen, despite the threat of imprisonment, has refused.

"James Risen is not just one of the best investigative reporters in the country. He is a journalist of enormous principle and courage, so committed to the public's right to know that he is willing to sacrifice his own freedom in defense of the freedoms that make it possible for all journalists to hold government officials and institutions accountable,'' said Walter V. Robinson, chairman of the New England First Amendment Coalition committee that recommended Risen for the Hamblett award.

Robinson, now a distinguished professor of journalism at Northeastern University, led The Boston Globe Spotlight Team that won the 2003 Pulitzer for public service for exposing the Roman Catholic Church clergy sexual abuse scandal.


He was part of The Times team that won a Pulitzer in 2002 for explanatory reporting for coverage of the Sept.11 attacks and terrorism. He shared the 2006 prize in national reporting with Times reporter Eric Lichtblau for revealing President Bush's legally questionable domestic wiretapping program.

Risen is the fourth recipient of the Hamblett award, named for the late publisher and chief executive of The Providence Journal. Earlier recipients were retired New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, who died March 25; Martin Baron, former editor of The Boston Globe and now executive editor of The Washington Post; and Philip Balboni, GlobalPost CEO and co-founder and the architect of cable news channel NECN.

The awards luncheon will be held Feb. 7 in conjunction with the winter conference of the New England Newspaper and Press Association.

Visit New England First Amendment Coalition at their new website for more.

The New England First Amendment Coalition is a member of NFOIC. --eds


September 11, 2013 8:30 AM

From Virginia Coalition for Open Government: Each year the Virginia Coalition for Open Government presents awards at our annual conference to recognize contributions to open government in Virginia. We recognize efforts made by citizens, the news media and government.

Last year's awards went to retiring Sen. Harry Blevins, for his work in setting up better access to Virginia's vital records; the staff of the Daily Cavalier (pictured at right), UVA's student newspaper, for their coverage of the leadership crisis at the school last summer; and the Concerned Citizens of Giles County, for their lawsuit against the town of Glen Lyn to open open records showing a too-cozy relationship between town officials and a local business.

We are currently seeking nominations for our 2013 awards, which will be presented Friday, Dec. 6, at VCOG's annual conference in Williamsburg.

To nominate a citizen, media outlet or government employee or official, please fill out the form below, or send an email to

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds

Visit Virginia Coalition for Open Government for more.



June 19, 2013 10:00 AM

From Hartford Business:  Sherman D. London, a consultant with the Trumbull-based public relations firm Michael J. London & Associates, has been named this year's recipient of the Helen M. Loy Freedom of Information Award by the Connecticut Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The award honors a member of the public or an official who uses the state?s Freedom of Information laws to advance open government. It is named for the former chairwoman of the state's Freedom of Information Commission and one of the original members appointed by then-Gov. Ella T. Grasso.


May 29, 2013 2:29 PM

From Washington Coalition for Open Government:  Save the date! The 2013 WCOG Madison/Andersen award ceremony will be held the morning of Friday, September 13, 2013. Submit your nominations for the James Madison and James Andersen Awards by June 30!

James Madison Award: Given to an individual or organization whose long term commitment to the cause of open government has been demonstrated through exemplary words or deeds.

James Andersen Award: Given to an individual or organization that has done something extraordinary to advance the efforts of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

Key Award Nomination Criteria: Any person or organization who has done something notable for the cause of open government within the past 12 months is eligible; this includes board members, WCOG members, the general public, or public officials.

Please see the rest here.

Washington Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds


April 5, 2013 12:48 PM

From Patch:

A team of Pierce County employees who redesigned part of the county's website to make it much easier for citizens to access public records were honored Wednesday by the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

WCOG President Toby Nixon presented the organization's Key Award to county communications director Hunter George, the project sponsor Diane Ladenburg and justice services director Al Rose. A fourth team member, county webmaster Angela Gow, has since left the county for the private sector.

The Washington Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. --eds

March 29, 2013 8:54 AM

From East County Magazine:

March 28, 2013 (San Diego) – When it comes to open government and public access to government records, times have changed dramatically in California. Much of that change can be attributed to the tireless efforts of Terry Francke, General Counsel of Californians Aware.

Last night, Francke received the coveted Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in San Diego. The award was presented by Donna Frye, Director of Open Government for the City of San Diego and a prior recipient of the Sunshine Award. Mayor Bob Filner also presented a proclamation honoring Francke.

J.W. August, president of SPJ’s San Diego chapter, observed that transparency in government is the “cornerstone of democracy.”

Francke recalled how times have changed since he first became involved in advocating for open government back in the 1980s. View a video with excerpts of his remarks.

Terry Francke is the General Counsel of the Californians Aware. The Californians Aware is a member of NFOIC. --eds

March 11, 2013 1:17 PM

From Florida First Amendment Foundation:

Two events highlight the First Amendment Foundation's 2013 observance of Sunshine Week, the national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Sunshine Week 2013 runs from March 10-16.

Sunshine Recognition Luncheon

The foundation's annual Sunshine Recognition Luncheon will be held on March 14 at the Governor's Club in downtown Tallahassee. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is the keynote speaker. State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, will receive the 2012 Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award.

If you would like to attend, please go here:

The Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award was created in 1995 to recognize the significant contribution made by Pete Weitzel, former managing editor of The Miami Herald, and founder and past president of the First Amendment Foundation, in the area of open government. The Award is given annually to someone in Florida who has made a significant contribution to the cause of furthering open government. The nomination for the award was based on actions taken by Senator Fasano during the 2012 legislative session that ensured that the people's interests were represented in the Florida Senate and that the legislative process remained open and accessible to its people. By those actions, Senator Fasano has set a standard all those in government should emulate.

Everyone Needs Sunshine!

Florida's Third Annual Sunshine Summit is scheduled for Saturday, March 16, in Seminole, FL, a short drive from downtown St. Petersburg or Tampa. Sponsored by the First Amendment Foundation and hosted by St. Petersburg College, the event will be held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Noted Florida author and political commentator Diane K. Roberts will kick off the summit as the keynote speaker. In addition, FAF President Barbara Petersen will engage the audience in a lively discussion about how we can work together to reform Florida's open government laws. Florida's open government laws have long been the envy of other states. But these days, the Sunshine State isn't looking so bright. The right of citizens to speak in public meetings, the right of taxpayers to know how their money is being spent, the right of the free press to report is under assault.

The Sunshine Summit is free and open to all, so please register now by clicking here:

Lunch will be provided to all who register before March 14. The First Amendment Foundation, based in Tallahassee, is a private, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that acts as an advocate for the public's right to oversee its government through application of Florida's open government laws.

The Florida First Amendment Foundation is a member of NFOIC. --eds


March 8, 2013 1:41 PM

From The Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch:

The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council has awarded the "Citizen Openness Award" to the Center for Media and Democracy for its efforts to bring sunshine to government operations in 2012.


The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause filed suit in October 2012 after five Wisconsin lawmakers repeatedly refused to comply with lawful requests for their ALEC-related public records, including correspondence held in personal email accounts. CMD has been investigating the American Legislative Exchange Council since analyzing over 800 ALEC bills provided to CMD by a whistleblower and since launching the website in July 2011. (CMD has received multiple journalism awards for its investigation of ALEC and our work was featured in a Bill Moyers documentary "United States of ALEC" in September 2012). Open records requests have been one of the key ways to identify the secretive organization's influence over law and policy in Wisconsin and elsewhere since it communicates extensively with lawmakers about bills it wants introduced and passed but claims it does no lobbying and does not register or file lobbying reports.

March 8, 2013 1:27 PM

Note: Please find the complete press release here (PDF/198KB).

From Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council:

As part of national Sunshine Week (, March 10-16, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council acknowledges advocacy groups on opposite sides of the political spectrum, as well as media outlets large and small, in its seventh annual round of awards highlighting open government in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Police Department earned the Council’s No Friend of Openness Award.

“This was a year of deep contention, one that cast into sharp relief the critical importance of our state's traditions of transparent government,” said Bill Lueders, council president. “We saw more than ever how our openness laws serve to hold public officials accountable, but also enable them to earn the public's trust.”

Five Openness Awards (“the Opees”) are being given to six groups and individuals for 2012-13. Four of the awards are positive; the No Friend of Openness Award is not.

The winners will be invited to receive their awards at the third annual Wisconsin Watchdog Awards Dinner in Madison on April 24. The event is presented jointly by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council and Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The honorees are:

Citizen Openness Award (the “Copee”): The Center for Media and Democracy and the MacIver Institute.
Political Openness Award (the “Popee”): UW-Extension Local Government Center.
Media Openness Award (the “Mopee”): Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Open Records Scoop of the Year (the “Scoopee”): Matt Johnson, Vernon County Broadcaster.
No Friend of Openness Award (the “Nopee”): The Milwaukee Police Department.

Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council is a member of NFOIC. --eds

March 8, 2013 10:06 AM

Note: Please find the complete press release here (PDF/111KB). Also see another recent post, MNCOGI to host Freedom of Information Event March 14, and a list of former winners of the Finnegan award at

From Minnesota Coalition on Government Information:

(March 7, 2013) — The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information presents this year's John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award to Ms. Michele Timmons at noon next Thursday, March 14. Ms. Timmons is the Minnesota Revisor of Statutes.

A champion for open and easy access to government information, Ms. Timmons' actions enhance public understanding of the complex legislative process. In spite of tight budget times, she helped legislators understand the need to appropriate money for a new, flexible computer platform to replace an antiquated system. Revisor Timmons and her staff not only provide excellent daily service to support the drafting and publishing needs of the Minnesota House and Senate, they also take every opportunity to improve and enhance the records of the Office of Revisor of Statutes to benefit all citizens.

Michele Timmons has been active in promoting access to digital government records at the national level. In her role as a commissioner on the national Uniform Law Commission, she chaired the committee that drafted the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA). UELMA establishes an outcomes-based, technologyneutral framework for providing online legal material with the same level of trustworthiness traditionally provided by publication in a law book. UELMA has been passed in two states and is up for legislative approval in eight states including Minnesota.

Since 1989, MNCOGI has awarded the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award which is named for the retired senior vice-president and assistant publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Finnegan was a life-long stalwart of open meetings, open records and the First Amendment. Each year, the award honors a Minnesotan or Minnesota institution whose work demonstrates leadership and commitment to the power of information to effect change. This year John Finnegan, Jr. will present the award to Revisor Timmons at an award ceremony at the Minneapolis Central Library. The award is named for Mr. Finnegan’s father who passed away in recent months.

The event begins with remarks by Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin on Minnesota’s yearlong cameras in the court pilot project.

When: Thursday March 14, 2013
Time: 12:00 pm-1:00 pm
Where: Minneapolis Central Library, Pohlad Hall, 300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls, MN 55401
Refreshments will be available.

Freedom of Information Day is usually commemorated on March 16th, the birth date of James Madison, a champion of access and transparency in government. This year's celebration will be on March 14th.

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is a member of NFOIC. --eds


February 8, 2013 3:38 PM

From The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ):

The Society of Professional Journalists annually recognizes exceptional contributions to the media industry through the SPJ Honors. Each award highlights individuals or organizations whose work upholds the pillars of ethical journalism, and we know many journalists and organizations deserve such recognition.

Help SPJ recognize the outstanding members of the journalism community. Take a look at the honors and think of whom you want to acknowledge:

SPJ honors | Deadline March 20

Distinguished Teaching in Journalism
Ethics in Journalism
Fellows of the Society
First Amendment Award
Historic Sites in Journalism
Sunshine Award
Lewis First Amendment

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