WatchDog TipSheet

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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White House Unveils Third Open Government "Action Plan"

"Action" may be too strong a word. For that matter, "open" may be too strong a word. The Obama administration Tuesday unveiled its third "National Action Plan" at the international Open Government Partnership in Mexico. But note that many items are held over from the second plan because they have not yet been accomplished.

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WyoFile Publishes Photos in Defiance of State's Censorship Law

Wyoming's legislature calls it "data trespass." Really? The state in March 2015 made it illegal to collect and report information about stream pollution or other environmental harm — when it involves entering private land. One independent publication invited its readers to collect and post such potentially illegal photos.

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EPA Intends To Add Natural Gas Processing Plants to Toxics Inventory

Administrator Gina McCarthy revealed October 22, 2015, that the U.S. EPA intends to add some natural gas processing facilities to the Toxics Release Inventory, a searchable online database of many of the largest discharges of toxic substances to air, water, and land — and a key tool for environmental journalists.

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