But a lot of people might not realize that the First Amendment didn’t go far enough in its guarantee of press freedoms and Americans’ right to know what their government is doing. It wasn’t until 1967, with the passage of the federal Freedom of Information Act, that the veil of secrecy was fully pulled back.
The act ensures that — with certain exceptions — media outlets, businesses and even private citizens have access to the documents, letters, meeting minutes and other correspondence produced by government agencies and elected officials. The FOIA, supplemented in Minnesota by the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, is one of the most important safeguards we have to ensure transparency at all levels of government, and it is one of the most important tools in a journalist’s toolbox.
Unfortunately, the FOIA is becoming a battleground — and Rochester might be the latest site of the growing conflict.
A Minneapolis law firm, acting on behalf of a Rochester-based group called Equality in Education, has submitted a data request to Rochester Public Schools. The request itself is 41 pages long, and it seeks any and all school district documents, emails, text messages and even social media posts by district