Help audit government websites for FOIA compliance

The SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government are collaborating on a project for Sunshine Week, and we need your help.

Under state law, state and local government websites must include a link to FOIA rights and responsibilities, including contact information for the agency’s FOIA officer and the process for requesting records. We plan to check state agency websites for compliance with this law.

We have created an online form for reviewing each website. The form consists mostly of check boxes and radio buttons, with questions such as “Is the link for making a FOIA request plainly visible on the homepage? 𐄂 Yes   𐄂 No”. We are seeking volunteers to visit a handful of websites and complete the form for each one.

We estimate that it would take 10-15 minutes to check a website. We would assign each volunteer five to 10 websites, depending on your availability. So the time commitment would be one to two hours.

Can you help out? Sign up here by Dec. 15. Then we would assign you specific websites and ask that you check them and complete the online form by the end of January. SPJVA and VCOG will use the results of the audit to prepare a report about how well state government agencies are complying with the FOIA rights and responsibilities law. (You would receive credit in the report.)

We also will provide a toolkit for Virginia journalists to audit local government websites. We would release the report in advance of Sunshine Week 2023 (March 12-18).

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