October 23, 2013–This special issue of the WatchDog focuses on the transparency of safety information related to dams, levees, impoundments, and related water-control structures. For environmental journalists, these subjects offer a goldmine of great story possibilities. These are stories that have not been covered much in the past decade, and stories that fit well at the local, state, or regional level.
October 23, 2013–Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens are at risk from potential dam disasters, yet state and federal agencies hold to a policy that amounts to "out of sight, out of mind." The biggest danger, apparently, is that the public might find out about the dangers, and criticize insufficient dam safety measures, inconvenience private dam owners, depress real estate values, or demand public spending that is politically painful for those in office.
September 25, 2013–On Saturday, October 5: At 9:00 a.m. SEJ FOI Task Force Chair Tim Wheeler of the Baltimore Sun will moderate a session on overcoming obstacles put up by agency press offices to reporters who want to interview government officials. At 10:45 a.m. WatchDog Editor Joe Davis will present a hands-on session with tips for sleuthing dam and levee stories using federal databases like the National Inventory of Dams and the National Levee Database.
August 14, 2013–The system for informing Americans about the threats to their health and safety posed by chemical plants is seriously broken, a Reuters investigation revealed August 10, 2013. Facilities often misidentify chemicals or their location, or fail to report the existence of the substances. But there are tools to help reporters.
April 24, 2013–News stories about the April 17, 2013, explosion of a fertilizer storage plant in the town of West, Texas that killed 15 people have so far focused on the plant operator's risk-disclosure failure, instead of the likely fact that government agencies knew the nature and magnitude of the hazard — or should have known. The bigger story is the regulatory failure — and industry's decades-long campaign to keep the public ignorant of the threats they face. Photo: AP/LM Otero/Available through Creative Commons.