FOIAFest 2021: Schedule Preview

FOIA 101
February 19, 2021, 5-6 p.m.

Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act in Illinois and at the federal level, the types of records you can find and how to submit requests.

  • Jared Rutecki — Data coordinator, Better Government Association
  • Sidnee King — Equity reporter, Better Government Association
  • Katie Drews — Investigative reporter, Better Government Association
  • Alejandra Cancino — Investigative reporter, Better Government Association

Navigating FOIA outside your state
February 19, 2021, 5-6 p.m.

You want records from another state, but the FOIA law there is different than your state and you don’t know where to start. Reporters share tips on how to get records from a state outside your own.

FOIA for Organizers: How to use the law to advance social justice causes
February 19, 2021, 5-6 p.m.

De-mystifying the basics of FOIA and showing how the general public and organizers can use the law to acquire information to improve their everyday lives and fight for justice.

FOIA and Labor
February 20, 2021, 9-10 a.m.

In a year that has seen the term “essential worker” become commonplace, how companies treat their employees has become critical. Panelists will speak to their experience using FOIA and documents to report on labor today. 

Finding Housing Data During a Crisis
February 20, 2021, 9-10 a.m.

Like other societal inequities, COVID-19 is exacerbating a housing crisis that disproportionately affects Black and Brown families in Chicago. Panelists offer insight into records requests, web scraping, data cleaning and building your own database in an imperfect data world. 

Federal FOIA law
February 20, 2021, 10:15-11:15 a.m.

The basics for requesting records from federal agencies, a process that might feel daunting but can uncover useful information.

  • Ron Nixon — Global Investigations Editor, Associated Press
  • Alexandra Perloff-Giles — Media attorney, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
  • Adam Marshall — Attorney, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Elvia Malagón — Social justice/wage gap reporter, Chicago Sun-Times

Case Study: CBS2 investigates wrongful Chicago police raids
February 20, 2021, 12:15-1:15 p.m.

The CBS2 Chicago investigative team walks through its series of investigations into wrongful Chicago police raids that have harmed Black and Brown families. The team’s latest story about a raid on a social worker’s home drew national headlines after Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office attempted to block the station from airing police body camera footage.

Long Haul FOIA
February 20, 2021, 12:15-1:15 p.m.

Using (and keeping track of!) FOIA to compliment and guide long-term stories.

Adapt and Grow: A Guide for Getting the Best Out of Collaborations
February 20, 2021, 12:15-1:15 p.m.

Award-winning investigative reporters share tips and resources for building strong and equitable collaborations for long term investigations. 

FOIA in Broadcast
February 20, 2021, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Using FOIA to take television and radio stories to the next level.

FOIA Lawsuits & Legal Representation
February 20, 2021, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Panelists explain your rights as you seek records and explain when and how you should escalate your fight for information into a lawsuit.

  • Nona Tepper — Health insurance reporter, Modern Healthcare
  • Matt Chapman — Freelance journalist
  • Matt Topic — Attorney, Loevy & Loevy
  • Freddy Martinez — Executive director, Lucy Parsons Labs

Organizing your FOIAs and Pitching the investigative story
February 20, 2021, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Panelists will explain what happens after receiving FOIAs and how to pitch the investigative project.

FOIAing Police and Prisons
February 20, 2021, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

As scrutiny on law enforcement and calls to reduce police budgets intensify, panelists offer a glimpse into the world of seeking records from cops and carceral institutions

FOIA and Immigration
February 21, 2021, 10-11 a.m.

Understanding how to use FOIA to uncover injustice in immigration.

FOIA and the Environment
February 21, 2021, 10-11 a.m.

Using FOIA to uncover environmental injustice.

FOIA and Schools
February 21, 2021, noon to 1 p.m.

How to investigate stories involving schools, and tools to get around the privacy restrictions for records dealing with minors.

  • Samantha Smylie — State education reporter, Chalkbeat Chicago
  • Adeshina Emmanuel — Editor-in-chief, Injustice Watch
  • Chris Bridges — Education equity attorney, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
  • Kelly Garcia — Freelance journalist

FOIA and the Gang Database
February 21, 2021, noon to 1 p.m.

Hear from organizers, community members and journalists who’ll help you understand the gang databases at the city and county level and how to use FOIA to search the demographics in a given jurisdiction.

  • Rey Wences — Organizer, Erase the Database
  • Alyx Goodwin — Organizer, Black Youth Project 100
  • Jackie Serrato — Editor-in-Chief, South Side Weekly
  • Andy Clarno — Coordinator of the Policing in Chicago Research Group, University of Illinois at Chicago