This summer, Dr. Fink and I conducted a research assignment which involved how college journalists used Freedom of Information (FOI) laws when they are trying to request information pertaining to a story. Professor Fink and I wanted to see the interactions between college journalists and their institutions when it comes to the students trying to receive information.
College journalists and FOI laws has been a topic of interest to Dr. Fink for some time now, Dr. Fink also knows that I will be the editor-in-chief of The Pace Chronicle this fall, so she thought that I would be perfect to help her with this. project. We began by finding college journalists who filed FOI requests in the 2016-2017 school year, once we had ten we thought that would be a large enough sample size to move forward. We both decided that before we interview the ten subjects we need to come up with suitable questions that would help us obtain the information that we were looking for. Questions that Dr. Fink asked the ten subjects was stuff like what was the background information for that story, why they filed a FOI request, did they face any problems when they filed a request, and did filing FOI requests affect their reporting. The information that we gathered was definitely a non-empirical approach because our methods was through analyzing the interviews that Dr. Fink did. Once all the interviews where transcribed myself and Dr. Fink went through each interview and choose the information that was suitable for our final presentation.
To summarize this project would be quite difficult because every subject had different experiences when dealing with FOI laws. Some subjects had an easy time obtaining information from their schools, and therefore it was much easier for them to report. However, some students had a very difficult time getting information from their university, and therefore is was much harder for them to report on stories. But it was very interesting to see how the universities reacted to requests from students. One scenario that came up frequently was Title IX requests and from what I gathered most universities were very hesitant to give over such information because when you think of Title IX and colleges it is such a heated issue it today’s society so to see how universities reacted to those requests was very interesting and telling.
Overall, I view this experience as a positive one because when I take over as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper the information that I have learned through this research project could become very valuable. Since I became a college journalist I have only filed one FOI request about a Pace student who was due in court last November so I think that it is safe to say that I need more experience. Through these interviews I learned what other college journalists had to go through in order to obtain the necessary information they needed to write a story, so I hope to apply that to this year. I also learned through the difficulties that these journalists face and I will use that as helpful experience as well.