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."
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.
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.
The Center for Public Integrity systematically rated the 50 state governments on various measures of integrity. One of those was transparency. Only three states scored higher than D+.
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.
"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.
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.
The nonprofit SkyTruth, an innovator in applying map technology to environmental problems, offers an interactive version of an obscure federal database on abandoned coal mines. Also available, data from the Bureau of Land Management.
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.
Investigations into emails are a hotter topic than ever. A new face-off between Congressional climate science deniers and the federal scientists who compile climate data is making headlines.