Drones might count as new media — and certainly have journalistic uses in covering everything from prairie fires to chemical emergencies. The federal government, which devotes enormous technical resources to spying on its citizens, now says this is illegal. The Federal Aviation Administration issued the ruling, saying there was no grey area: hobbyists can legally fly video drones. But journalists can not. Image: Cade Cleavelin, a science/ag journalism senior at U of Missouri, demonstrates a DJY Phantom quadcopter at the 2013 SEJ Conference in Chattanooga, TN. © Roger Archibald.
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You read about the 300,000 West Virginians who don't know if they are drinking safe water — and ask "Could it happen here?" The answer is "You betcha!" Environmental journalists have many tools for discovering drinking-water disasters-waiting-to-happen in their own bailiwicks.
Taxpayers' money funds the Congressional Research Service as it produces objective and authoritative reports on issues facing Congress — many on subjects of interest to environmental journalists. Congress, however, does not share these reports with the public who paid for them. Thanks to the Project on Government Secrecy, another batch of the reports has been leaked and published.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 16 other journalism organizations, including the publishers of two major Utah newspapers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief December 10, 2013, arguing that Utah's ag-gag law infringes on constitutionally protected newsgathering rights.
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Reporting on abuse of animals is now officially a crime — at least under Colorado law. Animal-rights activist Taylor Radig was charged after she made public a video showing employees of a Colorado ranch abusing calves.
OSHA's proposed silica rule "requests" (not requires) that commenters state clearly who paid for any research they cite and declare whether there may be possible conflicts of interest or whether the funder of the research may have influenced its findings. But 16 Senate Republicans have complained of OSHA's request for funding disclosure.
Some hope for more open government at the federal level emerged November 18, 2013, when the House passed a bill known as the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act aimed at improving public data about federal spending. The hope was bolstered by the fact that the bill passed the House by a bipartisan 388-1 recorded vote.Topics on the Beat:
For a decade now, the WatchDog has been telling the story of how the Office of Management and Budget sandbags public health regs, at the behest of business groups who stand to profit, by short-circuiting open legal procedures meant to ensure government integrity. The next chapter was told October 25, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action.
On October 31, 2013, the White House issued a preview of its "Second Open Government National Action Plan," outlining some steps it hopes to take toward more transparent government. Is it a new direction for an administration whose words on openness have often not been matched by deeds — or a misdirection?