By Sandhya Kambhampati, ProPublica
If you want to know how much money the city of Chicago spends on holiday parade security in a given year, you can file an open records request with the city for the details.
If you want to know how a college president spends his or her time, you can ask for his or her official calendar through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
FOIA allows anyone to request information from the government. In my first six months at ProPublica Illinois, I’ve sent over 1,018 requests for information, to everyone from the Department of Transportation to the state lottery.
As a data reporter, I need to understand what information government bodies across the state keep, how they keep those records and what they don’t retain in documents or databases. To do that, I need to know different state and local agencies, and maintain a list of contacts throughout the state. Read full story.