1. FOIA for the FOIA logs. Not only do they contain clues to stories, but also reporters will discover fascinating/ entertaining requests. One CIA log, for example, showed a requester had asked for “radar and visual sightings of UFO’s.”

  2. The federal government keeps papers on just about everything. If you drive to work each day on an interstate, think about which government agencies oversee federal highways. Do you eat at fast-food restaurants? Who inspected the meat you are eating? Listen to the radio or watch TV? What agency oversees the public airways? The federal government has scores of agencies. Each maintains logs, chronologies, audits, lesson-learned reports, and handwritten notes used to make official reports. FOIA for everything.

  3. Encourage readers to become part of your FOIA army. Publish sample FOIA letters as a breakout to your FOIA-based stories. List sample FOIA letters on your Web site, and ask readers to provide you with ideas.

  4. Learn the language and know the proper title of documents you wish to obtain. Try to make your requests as specific as possible.

  5. Be a woodpecker. Check back with the FOIA officer each week, or each day if you have to, until you get what you want.

  6. Write an FOIA request to the FBI for the file on local celebrities when they die. Look back over the past 40 or 50 years and write FOIA’s for now-deceased prominent members of your community. Include a published obituary as proof of death.

  7. Seek to obtain information electronically. Ask for databases and work-related e-mails—they can be a gold mine.

  8. Keep requests to a determined range of years and events.

  9. Fax or e-mail FOIA requests rather than rely on postal mail. Because of concerns about anthrax-related attacks, correspondence to government agencies might go unopened for extended periods of time.

  10. Appeal, appeal, appeal. If your original request is denied, write an appeal letter.

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