Charles Davis notes the growth in state-level Freedom of Information advocacy groups. There are 44 such groups now, versus 30 just five years ago. (The Knight Foundation has played an enormous role in this by helping to fund state-level FOI groups.)
I appreciated Davis’ explanation of his entry into the FOIAsphere:
Davis’ passion for freedom of information ignited in the mid-1980s when he was covering a school-board meeting for a weekly newspaper in Athens, Ga. When the board announced it was going into closed session, Davis was “escorted” from the meeting.
“It struck me as so anti-democratic that I was just stunned,” he said. Even more so when others in his newsroom said that’s the way it goes.
Davis calls that an “FOI moment,” and predicts one day each of us will have one. “It’ll happen. It invariably does.”
An institution will have a piece of information that is crucial to something you need to do. You’ll go to the county courthouse, city hall or a school district, ask for a record and be denied.
Sadly, Davis said, the typical reaction of most people is to give up. “They sort of shrug their shoulders and walk out. I think it breeds cynicism in government.”
But some people who experience that moment take up the fight for freedom of information. Davis said everyone he asks in the FOI movements says his or her involvement started with an FOI moment.