Last summer, the National Freedom of Information Coalition conducted an online survey to test whether the economic crisis and changes in the media industry had affected efforts to push for more open government. The results were conclusive: 60 percent of the respondents said that traditional media support for open government lawsuits in their states had fallen dramatically. Eighty-five percent of the respondents said they expected these lawsuits to become even rarer in the next three years.
Meanwhile, more than half of the respondents to a follow-up study said that open government violations had gone up in the past few years. And the NFOIC found that many media organizations were too under-resourced to even get their lawyers to contact government officials in protest.
Today, Knight Foundation announced a $2 million grant to the NFOIC to create the Knight FOI Fund:
The Knight FOI Fund will provide up-front costs such as court costs, filing and deposition fees, if attorneys are willing to take on a pro-bono basis cases that otherwise would go unfiled.
'Media companies have for generations taken on the lion's share of the legal work surrounding freedom of information,' said Eric Newton, Knight Foundation Vice President for Journalism Programs. 'But as media economics restructure, new approaches are needed. The National Freedom of Information Coalition is in a position to seed and lead new approaches.'
The Knight FOI Fund will be one of several NFOIC initiatives to address the fall-off in open government litigation, including a round of challenge grants to raise more local money for state Freedom of Information coalitions and a new website to help support the state FOI movement. You can read more about the Knight grant in our press release, and learn more about the NFOIC at the organization's website.