In this issue: Taking readers on a journey; award winner focuses on eco damage being done now; investigative reporting can produce a ‘higher obligation’; effects of climate change on journalism; report probes multiple sources of global mercury pollution; studying smaller newspapers; basing coverage on scientific evidence; farm bill’s future environmental impacts; book reviews; and more.
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Investigative reporting in the environmental area depends on the Freedom of Information Act. The latest exposé on GMO lobbying in the New York Times by double-Pulitzer-winner Eric Lipton is a good example.
The Center for Food Safety has sued the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service under the Freedom of Information Act for withholding information on genetically modified crops (GMOs), after unsuccessfully seeking information over a period of 13 years.
Abrahm Lustgarten (left) wrote a nine-part series delving into farm subsidies and water policy. But his efforts to get the actual names of farm subsidy recipients or individual water users were largely thwarted. Read how info flows less quickly to the public than money and water flow to farmers in SPJ's FOI blog. Photo credit: Lars Klove.
"The facts show the state's purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics," district Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote. Sometimes investigative journalists need to go undercover. And sometimes muckraking journalists need undercover whistleblowers to tip them to abuses.
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The Congressional Research Service, a taxpayer-funded agency, produces a steady stream of fact-filled and objective background reports on many issues of interest to environment and energy reporters but refuses to share them with the public. But there are other ways to access them...
A newly enacted Wyoming law seems to be aimed at criminalizing the collection and reporting of stream pollution or other environmental harm. It creates a unique new category of crime called "data trespass." Just what the law, signed in March by Gov. Matt Mead (R), means or does is being debated hotly.
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.
If you report on agriculture-related environmental issues, you may find useful a new geodata tool available free to the public online. Monsanto has bought The Climate Corporation (for $930 million), which compiles weather, soil, and crop data down to the field level.