More than one hundred members of the DeKalb area community learned what it takes to be a good watchdog at a training session held at Northern Illinois University (NIU). The event was sponsored by the Better Government Association in collaboration with the NIU Department of Communication and the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association (NINA).
Jason Akst, an award-winning journalist and instructor at NIU, opened the event, which was attended by NIU students, professors, NINA members, and concerned citizens. The BGA’s Civic Engagement Coordinator, Annum Haider then discussed how to be an effective watchdog, including how to observe government in communities and neighborhoods, how to monitor questionable behavior, and how to conduct relevant research.
BGA Attorney Matt Topic then talked in depth about the Illinois Freedom of Information Act's components and provisions. He also took citizens through the practical steps of learning who handles FOIA requests in various offices, how best to write a request and what to expect from responding governments.
The audience came prepared with a host of questions for Topic, most attendees having already filed three to four FOIA requests in the recent past. Several audience members indicated they understood the importance of FOIA, especially after several controversies in the DeKalb community, including the recent severance package received by NIU’s ex-president, Doug Baker.
Topic addressed concerns raised by FOIA beginners, as well as those posed by journalism students and active citizens of the DeKalb community.
Attendees who make FOIA requests after attending BGA Watchdog Training sessions are encouraged to share their FOIA experiences with the BGA and to send follow-up questions. NIU also granted student attendees credit for attending the event.
Watchdog Trainings are open to the public, free of charge, and can be conducted at various Illinois locations. To see the schedule for Watchdog Trainings, check the BGA events page on our website.
For further information or questions about Watchdog Training, contact Annum Haider at email@example.com.