WatchDog TipSheet

Local Authority Slaps Permits, Fees on Photography in Parks

Professional photojournalists may again be facing unconstitutional requirements for permits to work in public parks — this time at the county level in a well-heeled District of Columbia suburb. But Virginia's Fairfax County Park Authority is encountering pushback as they conduct an annual review of their fee policies at various park units.

More Secret Reports from Congressional Research Service

Nobody has ever explained why Congress refuses to release the tax-funded explainers produced by the Congressional Research Service. They are a gold standard for journalists needing quick background. Here are some recent CRS reports relevant to environmental journalists, helpfully released by the Federation of American Scientists.

Waiting for Ansel Adams: Will 114th Congress Legalize Park Photography?

You may have read in recent WatchDogs about controversial federal laws and rules that could restrict photojournalism in federal parks, forests, and rangelands. Now comes the "Ansel Adams bill" that would make it legal to do an activity that is Constitutionally protected. Only someone has to introduce the bill. Photo: Ansel Adams, by J. Malcolm Greany.

Arrest of Four Near Hog Farm Tests Utah's "Ag Gag" Law

One way to deal with bad press is to make it illegal. Exposés of inhumane conditions at feedlots and slaughterhouses are being made illegal by state legislatures that pass "ag gag" laws. Now a case in Utah is challenging whether industrial agriculture's claims of secrecy trump the eating public's right to know. Image: Sows in 7'x2' Smithfield Foods gestation crates. By Humane Society of the US [CC], 2010.

Decades of Petrochemical Industry Documents on Hiding Toxicity in Online Archive

The Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University, and City University of New York have just published some 20,000 pages of hitherto unpublished letters, e-mails, presentations, and meeting minutes from the oil and chemical industries in a public database, called "Exposed: Decades of Denial on Poisons."

Ohio Utilities Seek To Keep Reasons for Public "Bailout" Secret from Public

Three major electric utilities want the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to make ratepayers pay for aging and unprofitable coal and nuclear generation plants in that state. But the ratepayers — the utilities claim — aren't entitled to know whether they might be ripped off.

Foreign Agents May Cloak Environmental Stories

Environmental journalists can find important stories using data about lobbyists registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to work for foreign firms and governments. The Sunlight Foundation and other groups have compiled some of the information into a searchable online database — a starting point for finding enviro and energy stories.

FOIA Reform Is Dead; Long Live FOIA Reform

Legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, a key journalist's tool, died in the final hours of the do-nothing 113th Congress — but hopes remain that the coming 114th Congress could pass the bipartisan package. The bill's Senate passage was delayed by a "hold" placed on it by retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), whose reasons were not clearly explained but were apparently due to banking interests' fears.

Read the Congressional Reports You're Not Supposed To Read

Journalists hurrying to get up to speed on environmental or energy issues can get objective background from reports by the Congressional Research Service (an arm of the Library of Congress), which does not release them to the taxpaying public that funded them. We thank the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project for publishing them.

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