Mar 3, 2023 - News

FOIA Friday: Big charges for video

A headshot of Eli Newman and a photo of him reporting from a scrum.

Eli Newman's headshot (L) and Newman (second from left, middle) in a scrum with Mayor Mike Duggan (R). Photos: Courtesy of Neman and the city of Detroit.

When we write about public information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, we tend to get back reams of paper or PDFs.

Why it matters: Multimedia is just as important as any other public record, Newman says. The footage he requests often follows police-involved shootings.

  • "I think it's important to request that footage because … generally the Detroit Police Department doesn't make a habit of presenting unadulterated footage and when they do show footage, it's highly edited," he says.
  • "So there's not systems in place that makes these things available."

Between the lines "A video request has more costs associated with it. They need to make sure certain sensitive information isn't being provided. So that requires somebody to edit (the video) … So it's difficult," Newman says.

  • He's seen rates where the cost per hour for a government employee to redact video is nearly double the rate for audio.

What he's saying: Newman says he understands it costs money to procure records and that governments deal with a lot of requests, but that the process can become so technical and challenging that "I just think it makes it completely inaccessible for journalists and the general public just to get information."


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more