WatchDog TipSheet

"Journalist's Toolbox" Catalogues Vast Gumshoe Resources

If you are a serious journalist and have not yet discovered the "Journalist's Toolbox," you are in for a treat. The website offers useful sources for a wide range of topics of interest, especially to investigative reporters. Topics include protecting sources, privacy, data visualization, digital verification, transcription tools, rights-free photos, mobile journalism, public records, copy-editing, and more.

Reporters Curious About Tar Sands Not Very Welcome in Canada

Reporter Emily Atkin of the Climate Progress blog told recently of flying into Fort McMurray, Alberta to see the tar sands and being hassled for some 45 minutes by "security" officials because she was a journalist — including being told "We might have to send you back to the States."

Will EPA Go Further in Pushing Fracking Fluid Disclosure?

The agency is exploring some of its legal options for improving transparency about fracking fluid. One sign that EPA might be thinking of using its existing Clean Water Act legal authority came when the publication DeSmogBlog published on May 28 a leaked EPA draft suggesting it was considering doing precisely that.

You Can Hide Oil Trains from the Public, But Not from Terrorists

As 100-car trains of explosive crude oil snake through U.S. cities and river gorges, the railroad industry continues to tell the public they are being kept secret from terrorists. But now a series of articles by Rob Davis for the The (Portland) Oregonian seems to have caught the railroads and the feds in their own contradictions.

Toolbox: FWS Showcases Completed National Wetlands Inventory

You might have noticed that Republicans, real estate developers, farmers, and others have gotten steamed lately about U.S. EPA's effort to define its jurisdiction over U.S. waters. Whatever your views on this controversy, it will mean a lot of good local stories. Now there's an improved data tool for gathering information about those waters that may not be big enough to row a boat on, but still are critical to the environment.

Toolbox: A Swiss Army Knife for Environmental Data Journalists

The U.S. EPA has put online a "Data Finder" tool that simplifies finding and accessing data that may help you report your particular story. Find datasets by searching in many dimensions: media (air, water), health risks, pollutants, and others. It has an easy browse feature, and links to even more datasets than does EPA's mainstream Envirofacts portal.

Baker Hughes Vows To Disclose Frack Chemicals. Will Others?

It may be good PR. Baker Hughes has not only been a leader in oilfield technology, but has also been a leader in the inexact science of producing benign media coverage. The company says it will disclose the identities of all the chemicals it uses, but not the exact amounts or proportions. This move might also be a shrewd way of getting a jump on the inevitable, ahead of possible EPA mandatory disclosure requirements.

Journos Fight Feds To Keep Drones As News Tool

More than a dozen news media organizations filed a brief May 6, 2014, arguing that the Federal Aviation Administration is violating the First Amendment with its limits on drones. The media groups were intervening in the appeal of a judge's overturning of a $10,000 Federal Aviation Administration fine imposed on Raphael Pirker, a videographer who shot a promotional video of the University of Virginia campus.

Are Your Schoolkids Threatened by Chemical Plants? An App for That

When the fertilizer depot in West, Texas, blew up, some schools were damaged beyond repair. Fortunately, none of the kids died. But it raised an issue that has been obvious — and too often ignored by news media — for years. A new tool from the Center for Effective Government will help environmental journalists learn which schools in their area are near facilities that handle toxic, hazardous, explosive, or combustible materials.

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