New law will make it easier to get info from feds

Improvements to the Freedom of Information Act have become law but won’t take effect until January 2009.FOIA was passed in 1974 after the Watergate scandal (see Wikipedia). It sets forth rules for obtaining reports and correspondence from a variety of federal agencies. FOIA had been significantly weakened over time and the new OPEN Government Act of 2007 is supposed to make it easier for “representative(s) of the news media” to get their questions answered or sue to demand performance if agencies drag their feet.

Poynter Institute commentator Amy Gahran wrote a thorough report on the changes. Her entry links to a Jan. 1 post in which David Ardia of the Harvard Citizen Media Law Project says the changes will also “significantly benefit bloggers and non-traditional journalists by making them eligible for reduced processing and duplication fees” just like paid media.

I am never pleased with laws that differentiate between paid and unpaid news media. I rather think the words, “Congress shall make no law” mean just that. But making it easier to pry loose info from the federal government is a long overdue reform and even with its mass media tilt, thanks for this one.

For your further amusement, here is a link to the Investigative Reporters & Editors site on Freedom of Information laws.