A promising new resource has begun helping reporters trying to use the Freedom of Information Act to pry loose government information relevant to their stories. The "FOIA Wiki" is a collaborative and explanatory collection of information meant to help you.
Investigative journalism is hardly about paper documents anymore. The cutting edge today is more likely to be requests for emails, as well as text messages, chats and other electronic communications such as Slack. This big challenge was front and center at the recent meeting of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
Patience, attention to detail, and public-records requests can still get you a bombshell story on the environmental beat. One recently tied coal and oil company megabucks to Republican attorneys general challenging the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in court.
Summer algal blooms, seafood advisories, and beach closures remind us that water pollution has not gone away, and environmental journalists can still find loads of local and regional stories about it — if they dig. Here's a tool that can help. Image: © Clipart.com.
In addition to nuisance smells, confined animal feeding operations (aka CAFOs) can present serious air and water pollution problems. They are weakly regulated. Now a federal appeals court says information on who owns those feedlots can be kept secret. Image: © Clipart.com.
Miami-Dade county had stiff-armed a request from the Herald for the information, and denied a FOIA request. The county claimed the information was exempt for public health reasons. Photo: © Clipart.com.
Should a federal agency be able to tell a science reporter whom they can — and can't — interview? The issue exploded in September with publication of a deeply reported piece on the "close-hold embargo" by Scientific American. Photo: © Clipart.com.
The Congressional Research Service produces expert nonpartisan backgrounders on many subjects of interest to environment and energy journalists. But Congress won't release them. Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, you can read them now.
A lawsuit over Wyoming's controversial "data trespass" law, which made it illegal to document pollution violations on "private open land", was settled in August without really resolving any of the important Constitutional issues behind it — and with both sides claiming victory.
A key issue on the Freedom of Information Act is once a government record is released to a single FOIA requester, should it then be automatically released to any other requester and the general public? "Yes" was the answer from most journalists surveyed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — but with an important caveat. Image: © Clipart.com.