FOI Bootcamp for Journalists of Color

The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) presents its second year of “FOI Bootcamp for Journalists of Color,” assisting journalists of color in acquiring and analyzing government documents and data.

The FOI Bootcamp will train participants on records access, crafting requests, analyzing data, and combating roadblocks.

“Defending and expanding Freedom of Information laws is a pillar of SPJ’s mission,” said Irwin Gratz, chair of the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, which is funding the FOI Bootcamp.

Each participant will be matched with a mentor from their respective state for long-term FOI assistance, collaboration, and enhanced open government advocacy. Participants also receive free registrations to attend NFOIC’s 2022 virtual FOI Summit, Oct. 18-20, and SPJ’s in-person #MediaFest22, Oct. 27-30 in Washington, D.C.

This program aims to achieve the following objectives:

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

Bootcamp Staff

Erika Benton, the program’s lead coordinator, has worked for the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the First Amendment Foundation of Florida. She actively promotes equity among historically disadvantaged communities, including the African-
American community.

Bootcamp Instructors

Grace Cheng, an 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 Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

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 more than 10,000 people on behalf of SPJ, IRE, and other organizations since 2004. He is former FOI chair and president of SPJ and co-author of “The Art of Access: Strategies for Acquiring Public Records.”

Benét J. Wilson, a 25-year plus aviation veteran journalist, serves on the boards of Online News and the Center for Collaborative Journalism. In addition, she has participated in numerous webinars and workshops on digital journalism, media diversity, and branding. She works with SPJ and Google News Initiative.

Lam Thuy Vo is an experienced system and policy investigative journalist. She is currently a Type Investigations Ida B. Wells Fellow and a data journalist in residence at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, she worked for BuzzFeed News, The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera America, and NPR’s Planet Money.

Agenda (all sessions 1-2 p.m. Eastern unless noted)
Monday, Aug. 29: FOI and NOFIC
Wednesday, Sept. 7: Why Public Records and SPJ?
Monday, Sept. 12: Social Gathering + Story Building

Wednesday Sept. 21, 1-3 p.m.: Public Records Requests and Overcoming Denials

Monday, Sept. 26: Social Media Scraping with Lam Thuy Vo
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Google Tracking with Benét J. Wilson
Wednesday, Oct. 12: Social Gathering + Story Building
Monday, Oct. 24: Living in a Document State of Mind

If you are interested in the Bootcamp, please apply here by Aug. 19, 2022.