WatchDog TipSheet

Flint Hearing Raises Freedom of Information Concerns

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's openness has been a major issue throughout the crisis of contaminated drinking water in Flint, which has caused lead poisoning of some children. One aspect of the openness issue is the ability of agency employees to speak with journalists; another is unfulfilled FOIA requests.

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Colorado River Portal Offers Data Tool for Environmental Journalists

Water may be for fighting over, but water data is worth cheering about. A new Interior Department data portal may help journalists cover the ever-critical issue of water shortage and surplus in the Colorado River basin and nationwide.

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When Can FBI Spy on Journalists? That's Classified

Some journalists may remember the outrage back in 2014 about the Justice Department spying on journalists. And they may even remember Attorney General Eric Holder's promise to go straight and stop doing it — via new guidelines. But Trevor Timm, writing as a columnist in the Columbia Journalism Review, tells another chapter in the story.

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Flint Water Debacle Raises Freedom-of-Information Issues

If the water coming from your tap is unfit to drink, you have a right to know. But the crisis in Flint, Michigan, is challenging that assumption. Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (pictured) apologized to the residents of Flint, and "pledged to promptly release his emails about the issue," according to the New York Times.

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House Passes FOIA Bill; What Will Senate Do?

A similar bill almost became law in 2014, and chances of the current bill being enacted seem good. But the possibility of a last-minute derailment, especially in an election year, remains. To complicate matters, journalism and open government groups found problems with a last-minute "carve-out" for intelligence inserted at the behest of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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National Atlas Is a Trove for Environmental Journalism Projects

Because it is digital, the Atlas can be overlaid with many kinds of information: data on abandoned mines, coalfields, butterflies, aquifers, or invasive plants — to mention only a few examples. And because scale is variable, you can zoom in or out to customize it to your story and audience.

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Where's That Meat From? One Problem with Trade Treaties

Do consumers have a right to know where their food comes from? What if there is a federal law decreeing that they have that right? Not anymore. None of that matters. International trade treaties — nowadays often negotiated in secret — trump United States law aimed at protecting consumers.

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