About the Center

Awards and Competitions

For Journalists:
The Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Award
Entries due Jan. 16, 2024

The Brechner Freedom of Information Project sponsors an annual $3,000 award recognizing excellence in reporting that centers on the public’s right to know and draws on government documents and data that uncover official secrecy.

Successful entries showcase top-notch journalism and shine a light on the status of freedom of information laws and access to government-held information.

The deadline for entries is Jan. 16, 2024.

Stories or a series of stories published in 2023 in a general circulation (non-academic) news medium (online, print or broadcast) are eligible. Joint or collaborative efforts among new organizations are welcome. The prize money is made possible by an endowment created by the Brechner family. The award has been presented annually since 1986.

Entries should be comprised of:

  • A cover letter that explains how the stories came about, how public records were included in the reporting process and how the story/series led to more transparency.
  • URLs to the story/series, as long as they are not subject to paywall, or
  • PDFs of the story/series.

Please submit entries to brechnerreport@jou.ufl.edu.

The award recipient/s will be invited to the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications in Gainesville for a day of dialogue with students, faculty and the community in advance of Sunshine Week. Read more about the past winners.

For Researchers:
NFOIC-Brechner Freedom of Information Research Competition
Proposals due May 1, 2024

The sixth annual 2024 Freedom of Information Research Competition, co-sponsored by the National Freedom of Information Coalition and Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project, welcomes proposals for papers that shed light on freedom of information.

The top three papers will earn cash prizes and will be guaranteed publication in the online Journal of Civic Information, published by the Brechner FOI Project.

Authors are invited to submit a one-page paper proposal, which will be reviewed by a panel of expert freedom of information researchers. Proposals should include a one-paragraph abstract/summary, a paragraph outlining the proposed methodology, and a paragraph explaining the relevance of the potential findings for government agencies, FOI advocates, and access practitioners (e.g., journalists, citizens, record custodians).

Proposals may encompass any research methodological approach (legal, survey, experimental, content analysis, etc.), and should provide insights of practical value for those who work day-to-day in access to government information. Topics can include anything regarding FOI, such as access to public records, court transparency, open meetings, access to public employees, open data, and other related matters. Proposals should focus on civic information at the state/local levels, but topics regarding U.S. FOIA and international access also will be considered if they have relevancy or application to state coalitions for open government (e.g., the spreading of the “Glomar response” from federal agencies to state/local agencies, or the effects of technology or policies on agency transparency in a federal agency or other country that can be applied to any government agency). Because the primary purpose of the Journal is to furnish actionable information to professionals, an article’s usefulness to a lay audience will weigh in the publication decision; we encourage authors to consider audience accessibility in decisions of presentation style and depth of treatment.

All submissions must be submitted via email by no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Email your one-page, single-spaced proposal as a Word file to paper competition chair Dr. David Cuillier, University of Florida, cuillerd@ufl.edu. Cuillier, who is founding editor of the Journal of Civic Information, is director of the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project.

Those whose proposals are accepted must submit a finished paper by Aug. 1, 2024, and present their findings at the virtual NFOIC summit this fall (dates to be determined), to freedom of information practitioners from throughout the United States. This year Brechner is co-sponsoring the award by providing $1,000 toward the prize pool, in addition to the $1,000 provided by NFOIC, for a total of $2,000. First place will receive $1,000, second place $600 and third place $400.  Graduate students are especially encouraged to submit their work. To see previous papers presented, go to https://www.nfoic.org/nfoic-sponsored-research/