The Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications envisions a nation where journalists and citizens can acquire the civic information they need to better their lives, demand accountable government, create a just society, and protect democracy and the republic.
Since 1977, the nonpartisan university-based organization has been committed to equipping people, through research and education, with the tools they need to acquire government records, identify threats to transparency, implement solutions to improve laws and practices, and increase support for freedom of information, which is necessary for exercising one’s First Amendment rights.
What We Do
- Educate the public, press and government officials about the value of open government and the important role that freedom of information plays in a democracy and republic.
- Provide high-impact, practical and timely research on FOI issues, as well as talking points, to push back against unnecessary secrecy.
- Build public support for the importance of government transparency so that citizens may exercise their rights and demand that their leaders protect those rights.
- Foster the work of undergraduate and graduate students in the areas of media law and policy.
- Respond to media requests for comments about pressing FOI issues, including public records denials and policies that unnecessarily hide information from the public (contact Director David Cuillier: firstname.lastname@example.org).
The FOI Project publishes the peer-reviewed open access Journal of Civic Information, and directs public education efforts about access to information throughout the nation, particularly at the state and local levels. The FOI Project does not provide legal advice.
The Project is funded by the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, and through interest generated from endowments established through the decades by McClatchy media, the Brechner family, and Tampa Bay Times. The center also has received grants for projects from the Hearst Foundation and the Lumina Foundation.
The Brechner FOI Project is the successor to the Florida Freedom of Information Clearinghouse, established in 1977. For nearly 10 years, the Clearinghouse operated under the direction of Professor Jo Anne Smith.
Joseph L. Brechner, an Orlando broadcaster and advocate of freedom of information, provided more than $1 million for the eminent scholar endowment, funds to construct a suite of offices, and funds to enlarge the operational endowment. In 1986, the Clearinghouse was renamed the Joseph L. Brechner Center for Freedom of Information to honor Mr. Brechner’s contributions to freedom of information.
The Center’s founding director, Dr. Bill F. Chamberlin, ran the Center until 1999, when he initiated the Marion Brechner Citizen Access Project and the Center’s assistant director, Sandra F. Chance, Esq., was named executive director of the Center. Ms. Chance served in the role for 18 years and retired from the university in 2019.
Frank D. LoMonte, Esq., was named executive director of the Center in 2017, after serving for 10 years as executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C. On Feb. 1, 2022, Mr. LoMonte joined CNN in Atlanta as legal counsel. Clay Calvert, who had served as director of the Brechner First Amendment Project, retired from the university in December 2022.
With two vacancies, the College re-imagined the Center in 2023 to create the Brechner Center for Advancement of the First Amendment with two equal newly hired co-directors respectively serving the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project and the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project.
Dr. David Cuillier was named director of the Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information Project on Feb. 21, 2023, and started work July 3, 2023. Dr. Cuillier previously served as associate professor, director of graduate studies, and school director at the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he taught for 17 years, following a career as a public affairs journalist. A leading authority on freedom of information, he also served as president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, and is founding editor of the Journal of Civic Information.
Jane Bambauer became director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project in August 2023. Professor Bambauer, from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, researches issues pertaining to the First Amendment, particularly regarding speech and technology.
The two projects – Freedom of Information and First Amendment – work together to form the Brechner Center for Advancement of the First Amendment, seeking to empower citizens in their rights to acquire information and speak out so that they may hold their governments accountable and improve their communities.
The Brechner FOI Project can be reached at (352) 392-2273 or via email at email@example.com. Director David Cuillier welcomes inquiries from journalists seeking comments for stories about public records denials or policies introducing unnecessary secrecy in government (can contact direct at firstname.lastname@example.org).