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Making FOIA Work

2018 - 2019
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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 will test if journalists are more effective when working with readers to seek information, parse documents, and distribute results in new ways. To do this, the Engagement Lab is collaborating with two partners: MuckRock and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ). The team will design 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 will host workshops with Emerson journalism students to learn about FOIA and local reporting. The Engagement Lab team will deliver workshops on data-driven journalism and data visualization focused on creative reporting approaches with FOIA documents. Community members are invited to the workshops in the design studio to build strong engagement between community members and local journalists. The student reporting will be published through the MuckRock platform, as well as national and local partners of BINJ.

Social Impact

The program is being evaluated currently with results planned for late 2019.

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