FOI Bootcamp for Journalists of Color

The National Freedom of Information Coalition presents “FOI Bootcamp for Journalists of Color,” a training to assist journalists of color in acquiring and analyzing government documents and data. This program also will partner each mentee with an expert mentor in their respective state to assist the journalist long-term in accessing government information. 

The FOI Bootcamp will provide a full virtual training on records access, analyzing data, and serving disadvantaged communities. The National Freedom of Information Coalition will lead participants through an in-depth and interactive training focusing on finding records, crafting requests, and combating roadblocks. 

Each participant will be invited to join a virtual meet and greet with an FOI expert in their state to build a long-term professional relationship for future FOI assistance. Each participant also will be invited to attend the Society of Professional Journalists in- person and virtual conference Sept. 2-4 and NFOIC’s 2021 virtual Summit Sept. 28-30 to further network and foster engagement. 

This program aims to achieve the following objectives: 

  • To help journalists of color effectively acquire and use government data in their reporting, and to hold the government accountable more effectively, to aid their communities and to advance their careers.
  • To help journalists of color develop long-term professional relationships with access to experts in their states, and to experts nationally, to aid them when they run into barriers.
  • To strengthen SPJ chapters, state coalitions, and local communities through developing new and diverse leaders in the FOI community.

Bootcamp Instructors: 

 Erika Benton, NFOIC’s external outreach coordinator, who will coordinate the program and assist in the training, also has worked for the First Amendment Foundation of Florida for three years. She is active in promoting equity among historically disadvantaged communities, including the African-American community.

David Cuillier, NFOIC board president and teacher of access and data journalism, is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arizona and has conducted FOI training for journalists on behalf of SPJ, IRE and other organizations since 2005. He is former SPJ FOI chair and president, and co-author of “The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records.”

Grace Cheng, NFOIC board member, is director of Government Practice, Practical Law for Thomson Reuters, and former general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security FOIA office. She co-taught FOI training for IRE with Cuillier.

It is important for journalists to connect with experts across the nation and in their own states with the knowledge specific to a particular state’s laws and norms. The FOI community has traditionally been dominated by white men, and proactive initiatives are critical for bolstering diversity and inclusion. Freedom of information means freedom of information for all. 

Schedule: 

July 9, 2021 at 5:00pm (ET): Application deadline

July 19, 2021: Mentees selected

July 26, 2021: Welcome email

August 11, 2021: Mentees partake in online Zoom training in acquiring records, analyzing data, and serving disadvantaged communities, taught by Benton, Cuillier, and Cheng.

August 25, 2021: Mentees partake in an online Zoom session with coalition leaders in their respective states, coordinated by NFOIC.

 September 2-4, 2021: Mentees attend SPJ conference (free registration)

September 28-30, 2021: Mentees attend NFOIC Summit (free registration)

If you are interested in signing up for the Bootcamp, please apply here by July 9, 2021.