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Media-Filed Suits Seek Records from the Trump Administration

by FOIA Project Staff on May 31st, 2017

Numerous reporters and news organizations have already taken federal agencies to court seeking government records from the Trump administration. Details on all media-filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed through the initial four months of the Trump administration are now available in the second edition of The Media List.

Forty-five new FOIA lawsuits filed by 60 media plaintiffs have been added since the December 1, 2017 edition was posted.

The complete Media List compiles information on each news organization and reporter since 2000 who filed a FOIA federal lawsuit. The updated list, with filings through May 19, 2017, now covers 436 media plaintiffs and provides current details about each suit.

Who Were the Reporters and Media Organizations Who Brought New Suits?

During the last six months new lawsuits were filed by a total of 10 different news organizations and 29 individual reporters. Each of these recent FOIA filers is listed in Table 1.

Multiple suits were brought by three media organizations and five reporters during this most recent period. The most frequent filer was investigative journalist Jason Leopold. Leopold filed 7 new FOIA lawsuits during the past six months. In two of these he joined with his new employer, Buzzfeed, Inc. The second most active media filer was The New York Times. It filed 6 new FOIA lawsuits. The Washington correspondent for the Times, Charlie Savage, was also a named plaintiff for four of these suits.

Other media organizations that filed more than one case during this period were: Buzzfeed, Inc. that filed 3 suits and Pro Publica, Inc. that filed 2 suits.

Filing a single case were media organizations: Center for Public Integrity, National Public Radio, the Miami Herald, the Virginian-Pilot, Gizmodo Media Group operated by Univision Communications, Makuhari Media maker of documentary films, and ThinkGlobal, publisher of trade publications on international exports.

Besides Jason Leopold, two other reporters filed at least 3 separate cases during the past six months. These were the previously mentioned Times reporter Charlie Savage with 4 new suits, and Politico senior White House reporter Josh Gerstein with 3 new filings. Leopold, Savage and Gerstein have also been plaintiffs in earlier FOIA litigation during the Obama years.

The remaining two reporters with multiple suits were new entrants to the list of FOIA media filers. These two were chief investigative reporter Ken Vogel of Politico and The Daily Beast executive editor Noah Shachtman.

Table 1. Recent Media-Filed Federal Lawsuits*
Media Organizations Suits Filed
The New York Times Company 6
Buzzfeed, Inc. 3
Pro Publica, Inc. 2
Center for Public Integrity 1
Gizmodo Media Group, LLC 1
Makuhari Media LLC 1
Miami Herald Media Company 1
National Public Radio, Inc. 1
ThinkGlobal, Inc. 1
Virginian-Pilot Media Companies, LLC 1
Reporters Suits Filed
Jason Leopold 7
Charlie Savage 4
Josh Gerstein 3
Ken Vogel 2
Noah Shachtman 2
Adam Johnson 1
Brad Heath 1
Carol Rosenberg 1
Charles Seife 1
Cora Currier 1
David Burnham 1
David Talbot 1
Dylan Tokar 1
James Lantz 1
Jeffrey Stein 1
Jens Porup 1
Jeremy Merrill 1
Joshua Eaton 1
Laura Leigh 1
Leslie E. Packer 1
Louise Mensch 1
Matt Apuzzo 1
Matt Smith 1
Peter Aldhous 1
Robert Benincasa 1
Scott W. Johnson 1
Seth Freed Wessler 1
Shane Harris 1
Thomas K. Reilly 1
* Covering December 1, 2017 – May 19, 2017. See the entire Media List for earlier periods.

For details on each media-filed federal FOIA lawsuit since 2000, along with the identities of the reporters and news organizations filing these suits, see The Media List.

Please Help Us Improve This List

The FOIA Project launched The Media List initiative to document just how often the news media take federal agencies to court to enforce FOIA requirements. Starting with the case-by case records for virtually every FOIA suit now available on, the project team has examined and classified each of the over ten thousand individual names of plaintiffs in these suits to identify those that were media related.[1]

In some lawsuits, both a news organization and a reporter at that organization were named plaintiffs in the federal court action and both are included on the list. Other suits were brought individually by reporters.

The project is seeking the community’s assistance in expanding the information available through this list. Please let us know if you spot any errors or omissions. If you were the plaintiff or attorney in any of these cases, we would especially encourage you to contribute commentary about the case, or additional court documents recording details of the case. The “Case Detail” link on The Media List takes you to a page listing the material currently available about each suit, along with a link you can use to upload additional documents.

We are currently working on a similar list covering advocacy and nonprofit organizations. Please help support these new initiatives through your donation.

The TRAC Gift Fund has been set up through the Newhouse School at Syracuse University to support this effort.

[1] The list does not include everyone that may qualify for lowered processing fees with media status as defined under the FOIA statute. This list focuses only on organizations that hold themselves out as news media, and reporters for whom this is their profession.

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