Awesome, FREE FOIA, Watchdog Seminar Sept. 21!

Seriously, how often have you complained in the last few years that there’s never enough time for training, or that training is too costly, or that we can’t get to those important stories?

News Journalism Gov Depositphotos A.jpgWhen was the last time you FOIA’d something, or asked yourself if you were doing it effectively?

Well, there’s an opportunity coming up fast for a first-rate seminar for you, your colleagues and your staff — and it’s free, and the speakers will be awesome, and you’ll come away a better journalist, dammit.

NINA, the NIU Department of Communication, and the Better Government Association are co-sponsoring a must-see Sept. 21 seminar at NIU on becoming a better watchdog of government, with an emphasis on FOIA.

The relevance of the topic speaks for itself.

NINA’s goal is to fill the 350-seat auditorium. You can best help by attending, sharing this message with your co-workers and friends and posting on your favorite platform that this thing is happening.

“Steal This News Release,” to paraphrase Abbie Hoffman.

Don’t wait an minute longer: click here to sign up now.

How to be a Better Watchdog

  • Watchdog_LogoWhen: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017
  • Where: Cole 100 (auditorium), NIU main campus in DeKalb
  • Sponsors: NIU Dept. of Communication, Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, Better Government Association
  • Cost: FREE and open to the public. No reservations/tickets are necessary, but it is a first-come, first-seated event. The auditorium has a capacity of 350 people.
  • Presenters: Annum Haider and Matt Topic.

About the Presenters

Matt Topic

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Matt Topic

Matt Topic is an attorney at Loevy & Loevy in Chicago and the Outside General Counsel of the Better Government Association. He has extensive experience representing journalists, activists, and the general public in obtaining records under the Freedom of Information Act, enforcing the Open Meetings Act, and protecting First Amendment rights.

Among many other successes, Matt is responsible for the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video; the release of thousands of pages of emails on the so-called “private” email account of Mayor Rahm Emanuel; and the release of FBI records about corrupt Chicago Police Officer Ronald Watts, which helped lead to the exoneration of an innocent man. Matt also litigates intellectual property, False Claims Act, and other cases.

Before joining Loevy & Loevy, Matt was a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and previously clerked for Hon. Morton Denlow in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Matt graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law as valedictorian in 2006.

Annum Haider

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Annum Haider

Annum Haider serves as the civic engagement and research analyst at the Better Government Association. She is responsible for coordinating the BGA’s advocacy efforts, such as Citizen Watchdog Trainings on the Freedom of Information Act and Idea Forums on the Illinois School Funding Formula. She also writes content specific articles on legal and policy matters and handles a number of special projects with an end to promoting good governance.

Annum has more than six years of experience representing those who have suffered as a result of the negligence or unlawful conduct of others, both as a human rights attorney and a judicial clerk. She formerly clerked for the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and currently externs for Judge William J. Bauer in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In addition to this, she has handled claims on behalf of plaintiffs against large corporations and has helped prosecute corrupt governmental entities, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians—including a Head of State—for embezzlement, fraud, and corruption.

Annum holds a Master’s degree (LL.M. Honors) in International Human Rights Law from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, and a Bachelors in Law (LL.B. Honors) from the University of London, United Kingdom.

How to be a Better Watchdog


Send us your vintage photos

We are looking for interesting photos of newspaper life from the past 50 years, for a presentation during NINA’s Fall Conference on Oct. 18. Does your publication have anything that would make a good addition?

If so, pick 1-3 of your best photos and email them, in JPG format, by Oct. 1 Oct. 5 (deadline extended), to Jim Killam, jimkillam(at)gmail(dot)com.

Fall Conference features watchdog, nostalgia, awards

NINA’s 50th anniversary celebration features lots of nostalgia, a respected government watchdog and our annual awards presentation – including a special journalism prize worth $1,000 to the winner.

The Fall Conference will be held Thursday evening, Oct. 18, at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center in DeKalb. The keynote speaker is Andy Shaw, longtime Chicago newspaper and TV news reporter and currently president and CEO of the Better Government Association.

“Andy Shaw has long been one of Chicago’s most prominent journalists — in television and print before that,” said Dirk Johnson, NINA executive secretary. “He now shines a bright light on the unsavory and shadowy in Illinois government. NINA is honored to welcome him in discussing the role of journalists in watching the foxes near the chicken coops.”

Shaw spent 37 years covering politics, business and education and general assignments for City News Bureau, the Chicago Sun-Times, NBC 5 and ABC 7. He was ABC 7’s political reporter, retiring after the Obama inauguration in 2009. He’s an Evanston native and an alumnus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The BGA “works for integrity, transparency, and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the electorate to achieve authentic and responsible reform,” according to its mission statement. The association’s Investigative Unit tackles waste, fraud and corruption in local and state government, and publicizes the results through local media partnerships.

Special guests and a multimedia presentation will look back on NINA’s 50-year history, beginning with its founding in 1962 by Dr. Donald Grubb, founder of the NIU journalism department.

Judging is complete and we’ll award the annual winners in 23 categories for both daily and nondaily publications. Plus, we’ll announce the winner of the NINA Excellence in Journalism Award. This special contest rewards what our judges panel considers the best single work of journalism over the past year. The winner gets $1,000 in cash from NINA.

The dinner is being subsidized this year both by NINA and by the NIU Department of Communication. That means the evening’s cost, including dinner and program, is just $15 a person for NINA members and employees of member publications. Registration deadline is Friday, Oct. 5. Register HERE.


NINA 2012 Fall Conference

50th Anniversary Celebration
Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012
NIU Convocation Center
1525 W. Lincoln Highway
DeKalb, Illinois


6 p.m. Cash bar

7 p.m. Dinner

7:45 p.m. Keynote speaker Andy Shaw

8:15 p.m. Awards

Cost: $15 for NINA members and employees of member publications. $25 for nonmembers. Payable at the door. Please register by Friday, Oct. 5.

Parking is free in the NIU Convocation Center lot.

For more information, call 815-753-0707.

Editors and publishers: We can tell you in advance who from your staff won awards, but we can’t tell you what place they won.