Claire Miller is an award-winning data journalist & expert on FOI, with over a decade's experience of using data skills to dig out data, find stories and create visualisations. http://clairemiller.net
If you're having trouble getting public bodies to send you CSVs and spreadsheets (rather than dreaded PDFs), then this case is a useful one to refer to: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/1086.html (it says that public bodies should meet requests for information in a particular format where reasonably practicable).
I think if the data is usable then it's likely defaulted to an encoding format that is fine. I can only think you'd want to change it if you needed to do something specific that needed specific encoding (in over a decade of doing data journalism, there's very few times I've changed the encoding, I think only when importing CSVs into LibreOffice Calc, if it...
I think the basic questions of news journalism are great, and I also think why is a useful one as well:
- Who (or rather what) is the data about? - What does (and doesn't) it cover.
- What happened? - What does the dataset appear to show?
- When does the data cover?
- Where does the data cover?
- How was the data put together and by who etc.
Some places you can look for FOI inspiration:
What Do They Know? - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/
FOI Friday - https://davidhiggerson.wordpress.com/tag/foi-friday/
More FOI Friday: https://clairemiller.net/blog/tag/foifriday/
Big list of FOI ideas - http://clairemiller.net/blog/2013/01/a-great-big-list-of-foi-ideas/
Google news search -...