Looks Like a Heck of a Conference…

MAGIC is a collaborative, one-day conference sponsored by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and Duke University’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy that will:

  • Explore obstacles and opportunities for access to government information  by journalists and others writing about public affairs in the digital age;
  • Include government officials, reporters, scholars, and Non Government  Organization (NGO) leaders who can contribute insights into how journalists  can better discover, access, and use digital government information; and
  • Inform government professionals about the use of technology to provide  better access to government information

The conference is free and open to the public, though registration is required. Breakfast, lunch, and refreshments are included. The conference sessions will be videotaped and made available for viewing at a later date. For more information, please contact MAGIC@nara.gov

Conference Themes and Discussion Topics

The primary focus of the conference is to enable better access to government records by journalists and others writing about public affairs.


  • How can access to federal government records be improved?
  • What are the common technical challenges journalists face in making sense  of government documents and analyzing government actions, and how could those  be overcome?
  • What are the hurdles to gaining access to state and local records, and  whose actions could make those more readily available?
  • What actions could private sector actors and institutions take to help  journalists access and analyze government records?


What concrete steps could public and private sector actors take to make government records more accessible for journalists and others writing about public affairs? The MAGIC conference will be successful if it generates specific proposals that help answer that question and educates both reporters and government officials about the challenges both face in making government more transparent.

  • Practical actions for NARA, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Library  of Congress (LoC), and other government entities to take to improve records  access including specific recommendations for types of records to make  publicly available;
  • Possible IT research to identify, evaluate and develop tools that would  allow investigative reporters to tap advanced computing capabilities. Foster  solutions to common technical problems in analyzing government records,  including possible support for open source software; and
  • Identify actions that private sector institutions, association or  foundations might take to support access and development of tools to analyze  records.

Target Audiences

  • Journalists and others writing about public affairs, including bloggers  and social media users;
  • Federal government personnel at NARA, National Science Foundation (NSF),  National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Institute of Standards  and Technology (NIST), OMB, Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and  LoC;
  • State, local, and tribal governments officials involved in archives,  records and information management;
  • NGOs interested in public affairs reporting, including press associations,  journalism schools, nonprofit media, and transparency organizations; and
  • Information Technology researchers

The conference is free and open to the public. Continental breakfast, lunch, and refreshments are included. Seating is limited and registration is required. To register, send an email to MAGIC@nara.gov.

Program Schedule (Provisional)
Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00-9:20 Welcome by David S. Ferriero , Archivist of the United States, NARA

9:20-10:30 Session 1: Media Access to Federal Government Records

Journalists and NGO participants on this panel will address how FOIA and access to federal records might be re-tooled as the federal government implements its open government and transparency policies. Government panelists will describe their vision for how new policies and technologies are changing access to government records. Additional topics may include:

  • Institutionalizing the release of common records used to monitor agency  activity rather than waiting for FOIA requests to come in;
  • Centralizing, updating, and documenting information systems on agency FOIA  websites; and
  • Building openness into administrative (records collecting) systems that  are eventually released to the public.

Moderator: Irene Wu, Director of Research, SAND-MNIA International Bureau, FCC

  • Gary Bass, Founder and Executive Director, OMB Watch;
  • Sarah Cohen, Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy,  Duke University;
  • William  Kammer, Chief, FOIA Division, U.S. Department of Defense, and Vice  President, American Society of Access Professionals;
  • Miriam Nisbet, Director, Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), NARA

10:30-10:45 Morning Break

10:45-Noon Session 2: Technical Hurdles, Research Solutions

Journalists on the panel will identify specific technical problems in dealing with government records at federal, state, local, and tribal levels. Government officials will identify specific technical solutions or research agendas to find solutions to these problems. Additional topics may include:

  • Re-tooling internal government information systems to improve the quality  of records release;
  • Government agency support of research to improve the mining and analyzing  of documents not born digital, handwritten responses on forms, and audio/video  of government proceedings; and
  • Insights into emerging technologies and cyber infrastructure that may  facilitate media access to government records.

Moderator: Robert Chadduck, Acting Director, NCAST, NARA

  • David  Donald, Data Editor, Center for Public Integrity
  • Richard  Marciano, Professor and Director @ Sustainable Archives and Leveraging  Technologies group, UNC School of Information and Library Science
  • George  Strawn, Director, National Coordination Office, Networking and Information  Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program
  • Ken Thibodeau, Former Director (Retired), National Archives Center for  Advanced Systems and Technologies (NCAST)
  • Derek  Willis, Web developer, New York Times

Noon-1:30 Luncheon

1:30-2:45 Session 3: Access to State, Local, and Tribal Government Records

Journalists on this panel will identify issues that arise frequently in seeking records at state, local, and tribal levels. Government panelists will discuss possible solutions to making these records more easily available, and how different levels of government may leverage IT to improve access to records. Additional topics may include:

  • Types of records sought at state, local, and tribal level;
  • Special challenges in variations in open access policies across states and  localities; and
  • Federal funds expenditure rules that might trigger more transparency at  state and local level.

Moderator: TBA

  • James  Henderson, Former Director, Maine State Archives
  • Mark  Horvit, Executive Director, Investigative Reporters and Editors
  • Camille  Jobin-Davis, Assistant Director, New York State Committee on Open  Government
  • Jennifer  LaFleu, Director of Computer-Assisted Reporting, Pro Publica

2:45-3:15 Afternoon Break

3:15-4:30 Session 4: Private Sector Actions

NGO participants will discuss how they work to improve access to records, including participation in discussions to retool government records systems for better access by journalists. Additional topics may include:

  • What transparency advocates, journalism organizations, foundations, and  academics could do to support access policies; and
  • The development of tools to aid in the analysis of government records.

Moderator: James Hamilton, Director, DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, Duke University

  • Bill  Allison, Editorial Director, Sunlight Foundation
  • Rick  Blum, Coordinator, The Sunshine in Government Initiative
  • Danielle  Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight
  • Charles  Lewis, Executive Editor, Investigative Reporting Workshop and Professor,  School of Communication, American University

4:30-6:30 Networking Reception


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