SPJ NorCal’s Freedom of Information Committee

The Freedom of Information Committee is a three-decades-old group within the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California chapter — comprised of SPJ NorCal member volunteers — fighting for press rights, open access, and government transparency in our region. We produce and present the annual James Madison Freedom of Information Awards, honoring those who have made significant contributions to advancing freedom of information and expression. Our members nominate journalists and attorneys to three seats on San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, which is tasked with protecting the public’s interest in open government and enforcing the city’s Sunshine Ordinance.

We are also advocates who have achieved significant wins unearthing details on an illegal police raid on a San Francisco journalist’s home, the public’s right to access government documents and proceedings, and reinforcing the media’s right to cover protests, among other recent campaigns. Lastly, we also host public records workshops for professional and student journalists to spur and support more of this foundational work. Contact the Freedom of Information Committee at

Shaila Nathu – Co-Chair

A lifelong Californian based in San Francisco, Shaila is an associate attorney at the Law Offices of Kelly Aviles, where her practice focuses on the Brown Act, California Public Records Act, and other laws affecting the public’s right of access.  She also serves as assistant general counsel at Californians Aware, a nonprofit in the government transparency space with a strong legacy of education and advocacy in the fight for sunshine.  Prior to her current roles, she was a corporate associate attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC.  She received her J.D. from the University of California Hastings College of the Law, along with fellow committee member Aaron Field.  

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez – Co-Chair

Born and raised in San Francisco, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez is a politics and government reporter for KQED and enjoys reporting on his “dear, foggy city.” He formerly wrote the San Francisco Examiner column, On Guard, covering City Hall slugfests and The City. As an SPJ member and chapter vice president, Joe is passionate about teaching the next generation of journalists and is also the Freedom of Information Committee’s liaison to the chapter’s main board. 

Dr. Derek KerrBookkeeper

Dr. Derek Kerr started out as a physician whistleblower who received an “irreversible layoff” after investigating and exposing misappropriations from the Laguna Honda Hospital Patient Gift Fund. Had it not been for press coverage, his claims and reputation would have been buried. Since 2012, he has been an investigative reporter and columnist for The Westside Observer, focusing on municipal corruption and whistleblower issues. He joined the Freedom of Information Committee in 2014 and received SPJ-NorCal’s John Gothberg Award for Meritorious Service in 2018. He now serves as the committee’s bookkeeper, tracking our finances for legal defense and mission awareness within the larger SPJ NorCal chapter.

Darwin BondGraham

Before joining The Oaklandside as news editor, Darwin BondGraham worked with The Appeal, where he was an investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was an enterprise reporter for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017.

Christine Peek

Christine Peek is a California attorney based in the Sacramento area, whose practice includes open government, business, and appellate litigation.  In her previous role as a partner at a San Jose law firm, she successfully briefed the petitioner’s case in City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Smith) (2017) 2 Cal.5th 608.  In Smith, the California Supreme Court held that when public employees use a personal account to communicate about the conduct of public business, the writings may be subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act (CPRA).  In National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter v. City of Hayward (2020) 9 Cal.5th 488, she submitted a brief on behalf of SPJ NorCal and the Pacific Media Workers Guild (The News Guild-CWA Local 39521) as amici curiae in support of the records requester, NLG.  The NLG court held the CPRA provides no basis for charging requesters for the costs of redacting government records kept in an electronic format.  She joined the FOIC in 2018 and served as co-chair from 2020-2022. 

Lauren Smiley

Lauren Smiley is a San Francisco-based investigative and narrative journalist and a contributor at WIRED. Her stories typically involve reams of documents and deep interviews with human sources. She has written for The Atlantic, New York Magazine, and New York Times Magazine, having first honed her long-form writing chops as a staff writer at San Francisco Weekly from 2007-2012. She was the investigative reporter on the “Broken Harts” podcast by IHeartRadio and Glamour. Her work has been honored by the National Press Club, SABEW, SPJ-NorCal, SF Press Club, and the Los Angeles Times “Best California Writing of 2019” list, among others. She served as co-chair of the Freedom of Information Committee from 2020 – 2022.

Matt Drange

Matt Drange is a senior correspondent based out of Business Insider’s San Francisco bureau. Matt previously reported on money and power in Silicon Valley for Protocol, The Information, Forbes magazine, and The Center for Investigative Reporting. He’s received dozens of journalism awards and in 2019 was named the best young business journalist in the country by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. Matt’s work has appeared in ProPublica, The Guardian,, the San Francisco Chronicle, Pacific Standard and elsewhere. He frequently teaches professional and student journalists how to overcome roadblocks to accessing public records. Matt holds a master’s degree from the Columbia Journalism School and graduated from Humboldt State University, where he got his start in journalism covering cops and courts for the Eureka Times-Standard.

Aaron Field

Aaron Field is a Partner at Cannata O’Toole Fickes & Olson LLP. He focuses his practice on media and First Amendment law and civil litigation. He has extensive experience representing clients in accessing public records and government proceedings; defending speakers and publishers in cases alleging defamation and related torts; using California’s anti-SLAPP statute to defeat meritless claims arising from protected speech; and providing pre-publication review, subpoena defense, and other newsroom counsel services. He also represents clients in whistleblower retaliation cases, business and commercial disputes, SEC enforcement cases, and other litigation matters.   

Aaron served as Freedom of Information Committee Co-Chair from 2018-2020. In 2019, he received SPJ NorCal’s John Gothberg Meritorious Service to SPJ Award for his and the committee’s advocacy in response to searches of the home and office of a local journalist by San Francisco police. He was selected to the Northern California Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list in 2020-2022. He is a co-author of the “Access to Public Records” chapter of The Right to Know: A Guide to Public Access and Media Law (Cal. News Publishers Assn. 2021).  

Richard Knee

Richard Knee is a San Francisco-based journalist, freelancing since 1997. He has covered local government and politics, education, labor, business, feature assignments and sports, and has worked as a copy editor. He joined the Freedom of Information Committee in 1993 and is a past president of SPJ NorCal. He served from 2002-14 on San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

Randy Lyman 

Randy Lyman is a lifelong writer, activist, and entrepreneur. He covered freedom of information and First Amendment issues for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and co-chaired the SPJ NorCal Freedom of Information Committee from 2000-02. He is currently Content Coordinator of Montclair Living magazine and runs a search marketing agency devoted to helping local businesses.

Karl Mondon 

Karl Mondon is a longtime Bay Area photojournalist on staff at the San Jose Mercury News. He has been a member of the Freedom of Information Committee for 10 years, with a special interest in maintaining the press’s ability to monitor public airwaves used by police and fire agencies as they move to fully-encrypted radio communications.

Candice Nguyen

Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter for NBC Bay Area. As a proud Chinese/Vietnamese American and Bay Area native, investigative journalism is Candice’s way of fighting for her community. Her reporting uncovers unjust government practices and holds powerful officials accountable.

Candice was awarded the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for leading a 10-month-long investigation revealing why a growing number of single fathers are denied basic access to emergency services, rental housing and child care. The five-part series “No Man’s Land” led to police and housing policy reform in multiple Bay Area cities. Candice has earned nine Emmy and Murrow awards for her work exposing police misconduct, military and charity fraud, and more recently, housing, racial and education inequity issues.

Thomas Peele

Thomas Peele is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter. He has been a journalist since 1983 working in newspapers and non-profit journalism, and has won more than 75 reporting and freedom-of-information awards, including two from Investigative Reporters and Editors, The Ralph McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage, and Columbia University’s Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award for reporting on race. His reporting has led to 17 criminal prosecutions that resulted in convictions for crimes ranging from graft to murder, the scrapping of a fleet of government ships, the passing of numerous laws and once, when he was a reporter in Atlantic City, NJ, Donald Trump calling him “a fucking twerp.” From 2007-2011 Peele was the lead investigative reporter for the Chauncey Bailey Project. His book, Killing the Messenger, on the murder of Bailey, the Oakland Post editor, who was gunned down over a story he was writing, was called “a masterpiece of contemporary historical narrative.” Peele has also taught public records reporting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for 15 years and is a former co-chair of the Freedom of Information Committee. He lives in Oakland with his partner and their teenage twins.

Larry Sokoloff

Larry Sokoloff is a professor emeritus at San Jose State University, where he teaches media law. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Russia, where he taught courses at the Moscow Higher School of Economics. Larry received a J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. He worked as a print reporter in Southern California and Washington, D.C., covering local government and Congress. His articles have been published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Anna Tong

Anna Tong is currently a tech correspondent at Reuters. Previously, Anna was data editor at the San Francisco Standard, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, and worked at Google and startups. She worked with the Freedom of Information Committee and the First Amendment Coalition to advocate for better access to court records at SF Superior Court, having penned an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, drawing attention to pandemic-era records protocols. 

Jennifer Wadsworth

Jenn Wadsworth is a senior news editor at SF Standard, after returning to the Bay Area after a year in Louisiana, where she worked on the metro desk at The Advocate/Times-Picayune. Before that, she worked at the Tracy Press for a few years and went on to spend about a decade at Metro Silicon Valley, San Jose’s alt-weekly, where she won dozens of journalistic honors — including SPJ NorCal’s James Madison Freedom of Information Journalist Award — for covering, among other things, the police response to protests, public corruption, sexual harassment, various other misdeeds, civil rights issues, local government and criminal justice while also writing about housing, homelessness, culture and politics.

Laura Wenus

Laura Wenus is an audio journalist and local multimedia reporter. She hosts a podcast about city problems and potential solutions for the San Francisco Chronicle. She has hosted and produced public interest podcast and broadcast programs and reported stories from around the Bay Area for the San Francisco Public Press and KALW. Previously, she covered neighborhood and city news for Mission Local in writing, audio and video, with a special focus on housing and healthcare.

Annelise Finney

Annelise is a reporter for KQED’s weekend news desk and a graduate of KALW’s Audio Academy. Prior to entering the world of journalism, she worked as an investigator for public defender offices in the Bay Area and New York City. She joined the Freedom of Information Committee in 2023.