WatchDog TipSheet

Toolbox: Data Resources for Dams, Impoundments, and Levees

A key set of tools for reporters probing dam issues at any level, local to national, are the available databases on various kinds of dams, levees, and impoundments. The WatchDog in this issue presents a special "Reporters' Toolbox" on these data sets. We hope at least to help reporters find and access them.

Dams and Levees: What You Don't Know Might Kill You

Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens are at risk from potential dam disasters, yet state and federal agencies hold to a policy that amounts to "out of sight, out of mind." The biggest danger, apparently, is that the public might find out about the dangers, and criticize insufficient dam safety measures, inconvenience private dam owners, depress real estate values, or demand public spending that is politically painful for those in office.

Dams and Levees: Introduction

This special issue of the WatchDog focuses on the transparency of safety information related to dams, levees, impoundments, and related water-control structures. For environmental journalists, these subjects offer a goldmine of great story possibilities. These are stories that have not been covered much in the past decade, and stories that fit well at the local, state, or regional level.

Improvement Iffy, Slow on Obama Administration's Openness Report Card

OpenTheGovernment.org publishes an annual report on quantifying government secrecy with specific numeric indicators. This year it began with a bombshell statement — saying it could not really guarantee all of its numbers because nobody could any longer trust what the US government tells its citizens in this area.

EPA Settles Court Bid To Keep Luminant Pollution Data "Confidential" (Cough, Cough)

A U.S. district judge on October 2, 2013, brushed aside claims by EPA and the Luminant Corp. that information related to pollution from the company's coal-burning power plants was "confidential business information" — which seems to be a growing excuse for withholding public-interest information.

Freedom of Information Sessions at SEJ's 2013 Annual Conference in Chattanooga

On Saturday, October 5: At 9:00 a.m. SEJ FOI Task Force Chair Tim Wheeler of the Baltimore Sun will moderate a session on overcoming obstacles put up by agency press offices to reporters who want to interview government officials. At 10:45 a.m. WatchDog Editor Joe Davis will present a hands-on session with tips for sleuthing dam and levee stories using federal databases like the National Inventory of Dams and the National Levee Database.

News Media Groups Urge Court To Open up Wild-Horse Roundups

In 2010, BLM denied Horseback Magazine photojournalist Laura Leigh access to federal land to photograph a roundup. She went to court, was rejected, then went to a complex chain of appeals. Now the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other j-groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of photojournalists' First Amendment rights to cover government actions.

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