Make FOIA Work

2018 - 2019

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Make FOIA Work is about re-imagining journalism through design, participation and collaboration. Faculty, staff and students at Emerson College and the Engagement Lab staff worked alongside the Boston Institute of Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ) and MuckRock, two independent and alternative news and information platforms and publishers, to produce a data-driven and engagement-based investigative reporting series that exposes corruption around the sales of guns in Massachusetts. 

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About the Project

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Problem Space

This project prototypes new forms of making the Freedom of Information Act requests more engaging and accessible to students, journalists, and the public through original reporting, participatory projects, and visualizations.

Proposed Intervention

This project tests if journalists are more effective when working with readers to seek information, parse documents, and distribute results in new ways. To do this, we collaborated with two organizations: MuckRock and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ). The team designed an inquiry and reporting process that uses the FOIA requests to connect community stakeholders to journalists, and results in a series of local stories that are distributed through outlets that are affiliated with BINJ. In the design studio BINJ and MuckRock reporters hosted workshops with Emerson journalism students to learn about FOIA and local reporting. The Engagement Lab team delivered workshops on data-driven journalism and data visualization focused on creative reporting approaches with FOIA documents. Community members were invited to the workshops in the design studio to build strong engagement with local journalists. The student reporting was published through the MuckRock platform, as well as national and local Collaborators of BINJ.


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Project Contact

For inquiries about this project, please contact