Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

by Vignesh Ramachandran / Reprinted from ProPublicia Illinois

This week, we got together with young reporters and editors from Real Chi — a learning newsroom that covers Chicago’s West Side — to discuss Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, and answer questions about how their team could use public records to inform their reporting.

We’ve already filed a few thousand public records requests across our Illinois newsroom. Public records have played a role in almost all of our stories — including reporter Jodi S. Cohen’s recent piece about medical research misconduct at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where documents revealed how negligence and noncompliance put children at risk. Since Real Chi’s reporting covers a specific part of the city, we enjoyed the opportunity to talk about public records on a hyperlocal scale.

Here are some tips based on our conversation with Real Chi:

Like Real Chi and us, you, too, can request public records about what government is doing in your community — if that’s getting the new development permit for the lot down the street, finding out whether your representatives are paying their taxes or digging into what your local schools are spending money on.

Because we have to demand transparency to get it.

Our active use of Illinois FOIA and our scrutiny of its enforcement is just beginning. If you’ve got something to say about the FOIA experiences in your life, email us at illinois@propublica.org.