Tony Webster, a self-proclaimed “web engineer, public records researcher, and policy nerd” receives this year’s John R. Finnegan Freedom Of Information Award. You can watch a replay of the event here on The UpTake.
As a private citizen, Webster exercises the Data Practices Act with a rigor that rivals, and often supersedes, that of professional journalists and researchers. Webster’s requests concern data across a range of topics, including government surveillance, housing fraud, restaurant inspection data, and government responses to protests.
Webster publishes much of the government data he receives on his website, optimized to be discovered by search engines. This has led to the data being used in the reporting of professional journalists.
Using his website, tonywebster.com, and tweets, @webster, Webster regularly works to increase public access to government data via tools, reporting, and his own experience. “Tony Webster is a shining example of the power of a single individual to make government more transparent and hold it accountable,” said MNCOGI chair Gary Hill.
Patrice McDermott presented the keynote “Secrecy and Accountability – Looking Forward, Looking Back”
As Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, Dr. McDermott aggressively promotes their mission “to advance the public’s right to know and to reduce unnecessary secrecy in government.”
Her remarks reflects sixteen years of working in Washington, D.C. through several administrations in the face of unpredictable and often difficult challenges. She is the author of Who Needs to Know? The State of Public Access to Federal Government Information. In 2011 she received the James Madison Award from the American Library Association in recognition of her work to champion, protect, and promote public access to government information and she was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame in 2001.