Has your FOI request been used in a news story? Now you can let everyone know.

We’ve recently made a small change to WhatDoTheyKnow. Now, if your request has resulted in a news story, you can add the link as a ‘citation’.

If you’re a journalist or a campaigner, we hope this is a useful way to give your stories some more readership (not to mention a nice inbound link from a high-ranked site for your search engine ratings).

And if you’re simply a citizen whose request was picked up by the press, there’s now a way to share how the information you’ve obtained fits into the news agenda.

There’s a benefit for the wider transparency community, too. We think that, in aggregate, these links will serve to show others just what a simple FOI request can do.

Requests often start off as nothing more than an inkling or a nagging question, but there’s always the chance that one of them will reveal important or interesting information, hitting the news, reaching a wider readership and — who knows?  — maybe even changing hearts and minds. For big stories, it will be good to be able to create a permanent record of where it all began.

More broadly, when you use this feature you’ll be helping us to understand what sort of impact the site is having, too. We’re always keen to spot news stories based on WhatDoTheyKnow requests, but papers don’t always cite a source or link back to the site, meaning that our monitoring is often dependent on a manual search where stories look like they might have originated with one of our users.

How to add a citation

You’ll find the feature in the right hand column of your request page. Just click on ‘Let us know’:

A citation on WhatDoTheyKnow

…and paste the URL in:

Adding the URL of a news story on WhatDoTheyKnow

Here’s how it will show up on the request page, as seen on the first request to gain a citation, which informed a story about electoral letters sent in error:

a link to the news story on WhatDoTheyKnow

If there’s more than one story, you can click ‘New Citation’ to add another one.

The way we’ve set this feature up, WhatDoTheyKnow users can add a citation to any of their own requests — but if you spot a news story that’s linked to a request that isn’t yours, please do contact the WhatDotheyKnow team.

They’ll assess it and input it if they find it to be valid. Our aim here is, of course, to prevent spammers from adding irrelevant links to the site.

Users of WhatDoTheyKnow Pro, on the other hand, have the ability to add citations to any request.

This work is one of the ongoing improvements that we’re working on thanks to a grant from Adessium.

Image: Kaboom Pics

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