Tag Archives: foi

Meet the man who fought a dozen FOI battles to prove that data doesn’t cause crime

Empty Shops

Empty Shops image by Dan Thompson

For the last three years Gavin Chait has been fighting — and winning — multiple Freedom of Information cases to unlock data on vacant properties. In a special guest post ahead of his latest hearing, he explains how he uses a range of evidence to fight a widely misused exemption.

I don’t know how to break this to you, but you’re probably a terrorist.

According to Richard Woolford, Strategic Director of Security and Counter Terrorism with the City of London Corporation, unoccupied properties — and especially unoccupied commercial properties — are attractive for those intent on committing terrorism.

Any knowledge about vacant properties is so dangerous, he believes, that no information about them should be placed in the public domain.

Estate agents against terrorism

This will come as tough news to terrorism enablers, especially real-estate agents, property developers, banks, insurers, and Google Street View.

If you were hoping to find somewhere new to live, or somewhere to open your dream business, then – for the safety of everyone – you’ll need to stay put. Continue reading

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Emma Youle: “Local newspapers are one of the best places to do in-depth investigations because they are very well connected to the community”

emma youle

Emma Youle speaking at the Data Journalism UK conference in 2017 – photo by Wan Ulfa Nur Zuhra

As Archant’s award-winning Emma Youle announces she is to leave local newspapers to join Huffington Post UK as a special correspondent. Victoria Oliveres spoke to the investigative journalist about setting up local investigations, using data, and campaigning.

If you’ve looked at any UK journalism awards ceremony in the last few years, chances are you will have seen Emma Youle’s name: winner of the Private Eye Paul Foot Award in 2017, and the Weekly Reporter of the Year at Regional Press Awards 2016, she has also been shortlisted in many others, largely for her approach to showing the impact of national decisions at local level.

This success has come after a career of over a decade in journalism, including the last three years as part of Archant‘s investigations unit, where she uncovered in-depth stories from London boroughs.

Setting up local investigations

The unit was set up in 2015, which Youle considers to be quite pioneering at the time.

“I think local newspapers are one of the best places to do in depth investigations because they are very well connected to the community,” Emma says. Continue reading

Teaching data journalism — fast and slow

lecture theatre

Lecture theatre image by judy dean

I’ve now been teaching data journalism for over a decade — from one-off guest classes at universities with no internal data journalism expertise, to entire courses dedicated to the field. In the first of two extracts from a commentary I was asked to write for Asia Pacific Media Educator I reflect on the lessons I’ve learned, and the differences between what I describe (after Daniel Kahneman) as “teaching data journalism fast” and “teaching data journalism slow”. First up, ‘teaching data journalism fast‘ — techniques for one-off data journalism classes aimed at general journalism students.

Like a gas, data journalism teaching will expand to fill whatever space is allocated to it. Educators can choose to focus on data journalism as a set of practices, a form of journalistic output, a collection of infrastructure or inputs, or a culture (see also Karlsen and Stavelin 2014; Lewis and Usher 2014; Boyles and Meyer 2016). Or, they might choose to spend all their time arguing over what we mean by ‘data journalism’ in the first place.

We can choose to look to the past of Computer Assisted Reporting and Precision Journalism, emerging developments around computational and augmented journalism, and everything that has happened in between.

In this commentary, I outline the different pedagogical approaches I have adopted in teaching data journalism within different contexts over the last decade. In each case, there was more than enough data journalism to fill the space — the question was how to decide which bits to leave out, and how to engage students in the process. Continue reading

Building the first central database of victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Franco regime

Bombings in Barcelona in 1938

Bombings in Barcelona in 1938 (Image by Italian Airforce under CC)

In a guest post for OJB, Carla Pedret looks at a new data journalism project to catalogue what happened during the Spanish Civil War.

125,000 people died, disappeared or were repressed in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and during the Franco dictatorship, according to historians. Many of their families still do not know, 40 years later, what exactly happened to them.

Now the Innovation and Human Rights (IHR) association has created the first central database of casualties, missing persons and reprisals during the Spanish Civil War and under Francoism.

Continue reading

We are proposing to hand away property details at the very point journalists need them most

offshore property private eye

Late last year, as the government indicated it was prepared to water down the Freedom of Information Act, industry publication Press Gazette launched a petition. It was one of a range of factors which led to a promise to leave the Act alone.

This year we face a similar threat. But the industry press is silent. Press Gazette say nothing. Hold The Front Page is empty of reference.

What am I talking about? The Land Registry.

The government is holding a consultation on moving Land Registry operations to the private sector, and with one week left the industry press needs to wake up. Continue reading

VIDEO: FOI tips from Matt Burgess

In a guest post for OJB, Anna Noble interviews FOI expert Matt Burgess.

In just 4 years Matt Burgess has already built up an impressive reputation in the media industry. The founder of FOI directory, a site which covers FOI policy, curates the best FOI stories, and provides directories of FOI emails, and the author of a book on the subject, his journalistic career has ranged from a local press agency and a crowdsourcing project to specialist publishing, and now technology bible Wired. Continue reading

11 FOI tips and other highlights from ‘FOIA Without the Lawyer’

FOIA Without the Lawyer

This was first posted on the Help Me Investigate blog a couple years ago. I thought it was about time I should cross-post it here also.

A natural companion to Heather Brooke’s introductory Your Right To Know, FOIA Without the Lawyer addresses the challenges that come after the FOI is submitted: the niggling exemptions and excuses used by public bodies to avoid supplying information requested under the Act. Continue reading