Only a third of reporters said they received a response within the required 20 days called for in the federal Freedom of Information Act. Many waited months or years – or never received requested data, according to the survey and analysis conducted for the Association of Health Care Journalists by graduate students at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
Nearly half of the reporters completing the survey said they were "very dissatisfied" with the FDA's processing of FOI requests, although only 15 percent ever filed complaints. Many said they were satisfied with the information they received, with a quarter of them saying the information resulted in major stories.
AHCJ is an independent, nonprofit organization of more than 1,000 health journalists dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The survey is part of AHCJ's ongoing effort to track the responsiveness of federal health agencies to data requests from journalists.
Medill's graduate students, who conducted the research, were part of the journalism school's Washington, D.C., reporting program.
A student team traveled to FDA headquarters in Rockville, Md., to request documents from the reading room. Documents requested included a list of all FOIA requests made by journalists over the past 10 years. Surveys and interviews were conducted with these journalists, as well as members of AHCJ. The survey received 169 responses, including 44 from reporters who had filed FOIA requests in the past five years.More here.