Freedom of Information: A citizen's guide to fighting secret government - Page 5

Local and national organizations that offer a wide range of resources for journalists, citizen activists, and hell-raisers

Financial District branch: Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-4 p.m., 685 Market St., Suite 420, S.F. (415) 882-9310,

The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force oversees compliance with San Francisco's sunshine law by investigating complaints from individuals who believe city officials have withheld records or conducted meetings in violation of the law. The task force meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at 4 p.m. City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 244 (meetings held in Room 408), S.F. For complaint forms and other information call (415) 554-7724 or go to


The California First Amendment Coalition publishes the California Journalist's Legal Notebook, a handy guide to the legal issues surrounding telephone interviews, press passes, gags on sources, and other journalism-related topics ($36.25, $30.88 for CFAC members, shipping included). Also by CFAC is The New Brown Act: How the Open Meeting Law Has Been Revised ($12.75, $7.39 for CFAC members, shipping included). (415) 460-5060.

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission publishes a free brochure, How to Notice a Public Meeting under the Oakland Sunshine Ordinance and the Brown Act, useful for making sure a public meeting follows the requirements of the Brown Act. (510) 238-3593, (510) 238-6620,,

Access to Courts and Court Records in California, Open Meeting Laws in California, and The California Public Records Act are free, convenient, quick-reference guides published by the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter, and the First Amendment Project. (510) 208-7744,

The ACLU Freedom of Information Project publishes Using the Freedom of Information Act: A Step-by-Step Guide (#4002, $3) and Your Right to Government Information (#1190, $5.95), which covers a broader range of topics, including how to get into public meetings. Both publications can be ordered online through the ACLU's e-store or by phone. ACLU Publications, P.O. Box 4713, Trenton, NJ 08650-4713. 1-800-775-2258,

The Government Printing Office publishes The Freedom of Information Act Guide and Privacy Act Overview ($63), a 986-page guide to the FOIA produced by the Justice Department. It can be ordered by phone at 1-866-512-1800 or online at The Citizen's Guide is available in its entirety online at

The Freedom of Information Clearinghouse Guidebook is a free brochure about making FOIA requests and appealing agency decisions. It's available online through the Freedom of Information Clearinghouse.

Paper Trails: A Guide to Public Records in California ($12.89), written by Stephen Levine and Barbara Newcombe, is published by the Center for Investigative Reporting and supported by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. It can be ordered from the CIR. An abridged, online version is coming soon. 2927 Newbury St., Suite A, Berkeley,, CA 94703.