Putting TRAC to Work
  News Organizations — Editorial
The New York Times
June 13, 2017

Think FOIA Is a Paper Tiger? The New York Times Gives It Some Bite
By David McCraw

Time has not been kind to the Freedom of Information Act. It was enacted more than 50 years ago to give citizens the right to obtain documents from federal agencies. Not long after it went into effect, the consumer advocate Ralph Nader wrote a law review article titled “The Freedom From Information Act” denouncing the law as weak and ineffective. Five decades later, not much has changed. Last year, on the 50th anniversary of FOIA, a veteran media lawyer concluded in a law review article that Mr. Nader had been proved right over time. He dismissed FOIA as “deeply flawed — in fact, its terms have allowed agencies to defeat the very purpose of the act.” That veteran media lawyer was me. Which left me with some explaining to do when a study released a few weeks later found that I had brought more FOIA suits over the preceding eight years than any other media lawyer in the country. It wasn’t even close. A study by the nonprofit group TRAC found that The New York Times had filed 31 FOIA lawsuits during the Obama years. Our peer news organizations around the country — the major newspapers, wire services and broadcasters — had filed 10, collectively, according to TRAC’s report. (The numbers don’t include the many suits filed on his own by the journalist Jason Leopold, now at Buzzfeed.)

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2017
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