2013 FOI Summit Speakers & Presenters


Waldo Jaquith

Waldo JaquithOpen Government Technologist, and Creator, The State Decoded

Waldo Jaquith is a website developer and open government technologist from Charlottesville, Virginia. He's a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation News Challenge Fellow and the creator of The State Decoded, a free web application to parse and display legal codes in a friendly, open manner. In 2011, in acknowledgement of his transparency work, Jaquith was named a "Champion of Change" by the White House and, in 2012, an "OpenGov Champion" by the Sunlight Foundation. Update: Waldo Jaquith will be presenting the keynote address at this year's Summit. Read more here.


Brian Sonntag

Brian SonntagState Auditor (ret.), Washington state

Brian Sonntag, who retired earlier this year after serving five terms as the elected State Auditor in Washington state, served as County Clerk and County Auditor in Pierce County (Tacoma), Washington, before first winning statewide election as State Auditor in 1992. He was also a founding board member of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. Among numerous awards, Sonntag in 2000 received the The Freedom’s Light Award from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, which honors individuals who have protected or advanced the First Amendment. Brian Sonntag was inducted into the Heroes of the 50 States: State Open Government Hall of Fame at this year's Summit. Read more here.


S.L. (Sherry) Alexander

Sherry AlexanderAssociate Professor, College of Social Sciences, Loyola University New Orleans

Journalist S.L. (Sherry) Alexander, PhD, on the faculty of Loyola University, serves as Louisiana FOI ("Sunshine") chair of SPJ, was co-founder of the Louisiana Coalition on Open Government (LaCOG), and president of the NO Press Club. Alexander's writing includes Covering Courts: A Handbook for Journalists (2nd ed 2003), Media and American Courts (2004) and Courtroom Carnival: Famous New Orleans Trials (2011). She is currently contributing to a book on First Amendment law in Louisiana and another on The Times-Picayune.


Steve Beatty

Steve BeattyEditor, The Lens

Steve Beatty is the editor of The Lens, New Orleans' first nonprofit investigative newsroom, which launched in January of 2010. He has more than 20 years of experience as an editor at major daily newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Beatty runs a staff of 11 others who write a mix of short daily stories and longer, in-depth looks in topics such as education, the environment, politics, and the spending of Hurricane Katrina recovery money. In its three short years, The Lens has won national recognition, including a National Edward R. Murrow Award and a national ethics award from the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as many local press club awards.


Robert Becker

Robert BeckerAttorney

Robert Becker is a solo-practitioner lawyer whose practice includes advising writers, editors, photographers, and others in the news media about access to government proceedings and records, libel, invasion of privacy, and protecting confidentiality. For nine years, he was Assistant Director for Publications and a Staff Attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and before that he was a newspaper reporter and editor. He has been the Society of Professional Journalists' D.C. Pro Chapter First Amendment/FOI Chair for more than 20 years and he serves as Government Relations Committee Chair and Board Member for the D.C. Open Government Coalition. As the Coalition's government relations chair, he worked on the 2010 Open Government Meetings Act, and bills to strengthen the Open Government Office and the FOI Act.


Mark Horvit

Mark HorvitExecutive Director, Investigative Reporters & Editors

Mark Horvit is the executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors. He oversees training, conferences and services for more than 4,300 members worldwide, and for programs including the National Institute of Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR) and DocumentCloud. Horvit also is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, where he teaches investigative reporting, and he serves on the board of directors of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. He worked as a reporter, editor and on the projects teams at newspapers in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri and Florida. @markhorvit


Daniel Lathrop

Daniel LathropInvestigative Reporter, Dallas Morning News

Daniel Lathrop is an investigative reporter and open government advocate focused on freeing, visualizing and analyzing data to find and tell stories. At The Dallas Morning News, his work has contributed to both important investigations and the creation of new revenue streams. His book Open Government, published in 2010 by O'Reilly Media, is widely cited on what openness means in the digital age. His current collaboration on crime data with the North Central Texas Council of Governments is an inaugural grantee of the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund.


Linda Lightfoot

Linda LightfootExecutive editor (ret.), The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate

Retired six years ago from The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate where she worked for 42 years, the last 15 as executive editor. She currently teaches continuing education courses on the First Amendment. She was twice elected to the board of directors of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and represented the organization for several years on the National Conference of Lawyers and Representatives of the News Media. She is a past recipient of the national Sigma Delta Chi Sunshine Award.


Patrice McDermott

Patrice McDermottExecutive Director, OpenTheGovernment.org

Patrice McDermott is the Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org. She is a frequent speaker on public access issues and is the author of Who Needs to Know? The State of Public Access to Federal Government Information (2008 Bernan). She previously served as Deputy Director of the Office of Government Relations at the American Library Association Washington Office. She joined ALA in December 2001, after having served for 8 years as the senior information policy analyst for OMB Watch, and having worked at the National Archives and Records Administration. In 2011 she received the James Madison Award from the American Library Association, and she was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 2001.


David Marcello

David MarcelloAdjunct Professor of Law, Tulane University Law School, and Executive Director, The Public Law Center

David Marcello is a 1968 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Williams College and holds a 1971 J.D. degree from Tulane Law School, where he was an assistant editor of the Law Review and member of the Order of the Coif. He has served as Executive Director of The Public Law Center since the program began in 1988. The Center’s law students and staff draft legislation and agency regulations in the service of traditionally underrepresented clients. During 1978-80 he served as Executive Counsel to Mayor Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial of New Orleans, and in 1994-95 he chaired a 40-member Citizens’ Advisory Committee that successfully undertook the first comprehensive revision of New Orleans’ Home Rule Charter in over four decades.


Lori Mince

Lori MincePartner, Litigation Section of Fishman, Haygood, Phelps, Walmsley, Willis & Swanson

Lori Mince is a partner in the Litigation Section at Fishman, Haygood, Phelps, Walmsley, Willis & Swanson. She practices in the areas of media law and commercial litigation. In her media law practice, Ms. Mince has represented The Times-Picayune, CNN, The New York Times, and others in a variety of suits seeking access to court proceedings and public records. Ms. Mince graduated cum laude from Tulane University, and obtained her J.D., magna cum laude, from Loyola University School of Law, where she was a member of the Loyola Law Review. She regularly speaks and lectures in the area of media law, and is on the faculty of Tulane University.


Shawn Musgrave

Shawn MusgraveProjects Editor, MuckRock

Shawn Musgrave is the Projects Editor at MuckRock, a public records watchdog dedicated to untangling the Freedom of Information process. Shawn is the lead reporter on MuckRock's Drone Census project, a partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to map the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles across the country. He has also written about surveillance technology, homeland security funds for local law enforcement and civil liberties.


James O'Byrne

 James O'ByrneDirector of State Content, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

James O'Byrne is director of State Content for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, in charge of state politics coverage, Baton Rouge news coverage and sports. In his 32-year career with The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com as a reporter and editor, O'Byrne has served many roles, including as environmental reporter, editor of special projects and investigations, Sunday editor, Features editor, and editor of NOLA.com. He was an editor on "Oceans of Trouble," which won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1997, and was a reporter and editor on the team that won Pulitzer Prizes for Breaking News and Public Service in 2006 for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.


Barbara Petersen

Barbara PetersenExecutive Director, First Amendment Foundation (Florida)

A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Florida State University College of Law, Barbara A. Petersen is president of Florida's First Amendment Foundation. Before taking her current position in 1995, Ms. Petersen was staff attorney for the Joint Committee on Information Technology Resources of the Florida Legislature, where she worked exclusively on public records legislation and issues. She was appointed by Florida Governor Charlie Crist as chair of the Commission on Open Government Reform in June 2007, and is the author of numerous reports and articles on open government issues. Ms. Petersen currently serves on the boards of the Florida Society of News Editors and the National Freedom of Information Coalition.


Hyde Post

Hyde PostJournalist and Consultant

Hyde Post is a journalist who currently consults on digital product development, and on designing and executing communications strategies for business. Previously, he was vice president, media strategy, for News Distribution Network, a national digital video aggregation and distribution company based in Atlanta. He also served as Vice President, Internet for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and its web portfolio, including ajc.com, and accessatlanta.com until 2009. He was one of the original developers of ajc.com in 1998. Prior to focusing full-time on the web, he worked at the AJC as a reporter, special projects editor and assistant managing editor for local news. Projects he edited and/or directed garnered a number of awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes. He serves as president on the board of directors for NFOIC and is a founder of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation (a member of NFOIC).


Michael Reitz

Michael ReitzExecutive Vice President, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Michael J. Reitz is executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an independent, nonprofit research and educational institute based in Midland, Michigan, with the mission of improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. Prior to joining the Mackinac Center in 2012, Reitz spent eight years with the Freedom Foundation in Washington state as its general counsel and expert on open government issues. In that role Reitz litigated public records cases and served on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government.


Megan Rhyne

Megan RhyneExecutive Director, Virginia Coalition for Open Government

Megan Rhyne has worked for the Virginia Coalition for Open Government since 1998 and became its executive director in 2008. Before that, she served as an opinions editor for Texas Lawyer in Dallas, as a free lance writer and reporter for Androvett Legal Media and the National Law Journal, and as an adjunct professor of media law at Hampton University's journalism school. She first became interested in open government as an FOI intern at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 1991. Her law degree is from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and she was a radio, television and motion pictures major at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She serves on the board of directors of NFOIC.


Gordon Russell

Gordon RussellManaging Editor for Investigations, The Advocate

Gordon Russell has worked at The Times-Picayune since 1999, following shorter stints at the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune and The Dominion Post of Morgantown, W.Va. At The Times-Picayune, he has worked as a general assignment reporter in the River Parishes bureau, as a City Hall reporter, as special projects editor and finally as city editor. He now oversees the paper's investigative and enterprise work.


Terry Ryder

Terry RyderAttorney

Terry directly served Louisiana Governors Buddy Roemer, Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana legislature from 1976 thru 2008. His experience included many legal areas and often at the highest level of interest to both the executive and legislative branches of Louisiana government. Throughout his career he has had extensive experience with public records issues. Terry presently maintains a limited legal practice focused primarily in the public interest and including general areas of administrative law with emphasis on constitutional, environmental, ethics, lobbying, campaign, and public records laws.


Peter Scheer

Peter ScheerExecutive Director, First Amendment Coalition (California)

Peter Scheer is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, which is based in California. A lawyer and journalist, Scheer was editor and publisher of The Recorder, a daily legal newspaper in San Francisco, and publisher of Legal Times, a Washington, DC-based weekly on law and lobbying. Scheer practiced appellate law in Washington, DC, both in the U.S. Justice Department and in private practice. Scheer writes regularly for the HuffingtonPost and his articles on First Amendment issues have appeared in numerous publications. Scheer has received the Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award (from the national Sigma Delta Chi Foundation) and the James Madison Freedom of Information Award (from the Society of Professional Journalists). He serves as vice-president on the board of directors of NFOIC.


Robert Travis Scott

Robert Travis ScottPresident, Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana

Robert Travis Scott is President of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana. PAR is a private, nonprofit, non-partisan public policy research organization founded in 1950. In addition to serving as a catalyst for governmental reform, PAR also has a program of citizen education, believing that the soundest way to achieve political progress is through deep-rooted public understanding and support. Before joining PAR, Scott worked for 14 years at The Times-Picayune, where he was an award-winning journalist for political, business and investigative reporting. He covered Louisiana politics as the newspaper’s Capital Bureau Chief based in Baton Rouge. Scott also was a business editor and columnist in South Carolina and an associate director of a think tank in Washington, D.C., dealing with national security issues.


Joey Senat

Joey Senat Associate Professor, School of Media & Strategic Communications, Oklahoma State University

Joey Senat, Ph.D., writes an open government blog for FOI Oklahoma. His model letter for requesting public records in Oklahoma is widely used. Senat has spoken on FOI, First Amendment and journalism education issues at dozens of professional and academic conferences, including IRE Better Watchdog Workshops and SPJ Region 8 conferences. In summer 2012, he conducted open government training from Texas to Michigan as part of SPJ’s Access Across America Part II.


Tod Anthony Smith

Tod Anthony SmithPresident & General Manager, WWL-TV, Inc.

A native of New Orleans, Tod Smith assumed his current position as President and General Manager of WWL-TV, Inc. in July 2012. Prior to his current role, Smith served as President and General Manager of WVEC-TV, Norfolk, VA; President and General Manager of KMSB-TV/KTTU-TV Tucson, AZ; and vice president and media director, Peter A. Mayer Advertising. Smith holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in management from Loyola University of New Orleans and is a 2006 graduate of the Management Development Seminar for Television Executives at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and the Medill School of Journalism.


Scott Sternberg

Scott SternbergAssociate, Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer, LLC

Scott Sternberg practices general litigation and media law in New Orleans at Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer, LLC. He also teaches media law in the School of Mass Communication at Loyola University of New Orleans and has lectured at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Scott is a former fellow at the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Virginia and graduated cum laude from the LSU Law Center in 2010.


Anne-Marie Taylor

Anne-Marie TaylorPolitical & Nonprofit Fundraiser; Co-founder, Investigate West

Anne-Marie Taylor organized her first fundraiser at age 14 and hasn't stopped since. She's raised money for nonprofit, political and professional organizations, and run two political action committees. She was co-founder and development director of the Seattle-based journalism center InvestigateWest, now in its fourth year of successful operation. Currently she advises clients like Knowlede As Power, a Gov 2.0 nonprofit dedicated to opening state legislative data. She graduated from the University of Iowa and received her law degree from the University of San Francisco. She lives in Dallas, Texas.


Kenneth F. Bunting

Ken BuntingExecutive Director, National Freedom of Information Coalition

Kenneth F. Bunting became the first full-time executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition in July, 2010. Before joining the NFOIC and the Missouri School of Journalism, he spent parts of four decades as a journalist, executive and leader in the newspaper industry. Most recently, he was Associate Publisher at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he had also been Executive Editor and Managing Editor. A native of Houston and an alumnus of Texas Christian University, Bunting also worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, Cincinnati Post, San Antonio Express-News and Corpus Christi Caller-Times. His passion and advocacy on open government issues goes back decades. He and his wife, Juli, a novelist and former broadcast journalist, have one son.