Hi, BMG! I haven’t been posting much here recently, as my new blogging project has taken up the time I have to devote to the blogosphere.
Those of you who have your own blogs might be interested in my recent FOIA experience. I submitted a FOIA request to the State Department to obtain records for a post I planned to write on a treaty within what I call the Official Letters Blogatory Scope of Coverage. When you submit a FOIA request, you have to indicate which category you fall into: commercial, academic, press, etc. This is relevant to the fees you have to pay to obtain the records you want.
I said, “what the heck,” and I indicated that I was a “representative of the news media.” I provided an explanation of the blog, the post I wanted to write, and so forth. And guess what? The State Department agreed. Apparently this is not really a settled question. Here is what the EFF has to say about it:
The question of whether or when a blogger would qualify as a journalist for FOIA purposes based solely on his or her blog work has not yet been addressed. However, the FOIA makes it clear that alternative media and freelance journalists can qualify as representatives of the news media for fee purposes. If you plan to publish information on your blog based on the records you are seeking, you should note as much in your FOIA request and ask for a fee waiver/reduction. You may or may not succeed, but there’s no harm in trying. If you are denied, you may file suit in federal court to challenge the denial.
So I suppose this is a chink in the armor of the old media. Bloggers, go forth!