MFIA to Host Annual Freedom of Information Act Bootcamp


On April 5, the Media Freedom and Information Access (MFIA) clinic at Yale Law School will host its annual FOIA Bootcamp.

After two years online due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Bootcamp will be held in Baker Hall 140, with a Zoom option available for those outside the Yale community or who cannot attend in person. The event will equip members of the Yale and New Haven communities, and local journalists beyond, with the tools to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to access previously unreleased government records.

Aimed at local journalists, student journalists at Yale or other universities in the New Haven area, and lawyers, activists, and citizens in the New Haven community who want to use FOIA in their work, the event will feature presentations by lawyer Stephanie Krent ’16 and journalist Shane Shiflett.

A staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Krent has filed and litigated groundbreaking FOIA requests to access various records from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. A data reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Shiflett regularly uses FOIA in his reporting and is one of the founders of FOIA Machine, a crowdfunded open-source FOIA tracking website. He also teaches journalism at the New School.

“FOIA is a complicated statute and I think it can be intimidating to think about submitting a request and going through the process,” said MFIA student director Jackson Busch ’22, who is co-organizing the event. “It’s our hope that by having presentations and Q&A with established practitioners of FOIA that we can lower the barrier to entry and give local journalists, newsgatherers, and activists the tools to access government records.”

Krent and Shiflett will teach the mechanics of writing and submitting FOIA requests from the perspective of a practicing lawyer and journalist. They will also share strategies for using FOIA effectively.

“The Bootcamp is for people who want to file FOIA requests but may feel like they don’t know how to start, don’t know how to structure a request, or don’t know how to deal with internal agency processes around adjudicating requests,” said Emily Lu Wang ’22, MFIA student director and co-organizer of the event. “In an era of state secrecy, we want to encourage increased usage of the statute, which is one of the key ways we can find out what our government is doing.”

MFIA is dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression through impact litigation, direct legal services, and policy work.