WatchDog TipSheet

J-Groups Meet with WH Press Secretary, Seek More Openness

Representatives of a coalition of 53 journalism groups met December 15, 2015, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. The groups, including SEJ and Society of Professional Journalists, have complained about agency press offices obstructing reporters' access to officials and information.

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Read the Reports Congress Doesn't Want You To Read

Here are some reports of possible interest to environmental journalists from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Congress does not release them to the public, but the Union of Concerned Scientists' Government Secrecy Project does.

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Will the FAA Drone Registry Have a FOIA Exemption?

It's never too early for journalists to complain about secrecy. Case in point: the database of drone owners which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to register. A key task force recently recommended that the database be exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act.

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The Buck Stops with "Senior Press Official Number One"

One reason for thinking the White House endorses and enforces tight message control is the fact that many agency press secretaries come from a background of working on presidential elections campaigns. Journalism groups have raised their hopes now that a meeting with the White House has been scheduled mid-December. At the meeting will be representatives of SEJ, the Society of Professional Journalists and possibly others, representing concerns of a coalition of more than 50 other j-groups.

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Access to Places: A Few Basics for Journalists

The University of Missouri "safe space" incident on Nov 9, 2015 rekindled questions and debate about journalists' First Amendment right of access to spaces. One of the best practical guides to law on this issue is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press publication, "A Reporter's Field Guide."

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Chemical Plant Data Can Reveal Local Stories

A disturbing story of poor chemical company compliance with environmental and safety rules was released October 22, 2015, by a watchdog group. It could have — and perhaps should have — been done by a news publication. And it shows the use journalists could make of several key databases.

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Federal Advisory Committee Meetings All Too Often Closed to Public

An important, but little-known, transparency law requires that FAC meetings be open to the public. But a new study shows that more than two-thirds of the time, they are not. On those committees, industry "experts" who have a financial stake may be telling agencies to ignore scientific findings in their regulation of things like environmental health and toxic chemicals.

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Liberals Unmuzzle Canadian Scientists; Will U.S. Scientists Be Next?

The speed and ease of this Canadian revolution by incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau belies the "common wisdom" among many jaded reporters and PR professionals that muzzling of U.S. government scientists and officials is somehow inevitable and woven into the culture of government.

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