A new pilot program would make available to the public automatically and immediately any information released to an individual FOIA requester. But some journalists would rather not have their pending scoops revealed before they are ripe. Image source: U.S. government.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
The WatchDog has long whined about Congress' mystifying refusal to let taxpayers read Congressional Research Service reports the taxpayers have paid for. A June 17, 2015, editorial in the New York Times called the situation "absurd," expressing hope that a new director of the Library of Congress (home of the CRS) would manage to get the policy changed.
Journalists, think tanks, and advocacy groups all gave low marks to the Obama administration's performance under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) at a House hearing June 2 and 3, 2015. Some GOP members used the occasion to score partisan points; see the video and document archives.Topics on the Beat:
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...
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and SEJ sent a letter to Josh Earnest (pictured), White House Press Secretary, May 29, 2015, asking for a meeting to discuss restrictions that infringe on journalists' abilities to report on the federal government. The letter follows up on earlier pleas from some 38 journalism groups to the White House for more openness.
It's not a mistake. Congress really doesn't want you to read those excellent explainers on public issues produced by experts at the Congressional Research Service (CRS). We know this because a House Appropriations subcommittee specifically restated that CRS was not to publish its reports.Topics on the Beat:
In response to the WatchDog's request for the U.S. EPA's press policy, EPA seems to be saying that it doesn't have one. Or that paradoxically EPA staff can talk to reporters but are forbidden to talk to reporters. Or that EPA does not respond to requests for information. Even though the WatchDog finally got a partial response to its June 10, 2014, FOIA request for EPA policies on news media access to EPA employees on April 29, 2015, nothing was revealed. Puzzled? So are we.
Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi has published a story detailing the unfolding of the Obama spin-control saga and the resulting uneasy standoff. Several SEJ members are mentioned, as is Tom Reynolds (pictured), Associate Administrator for EPA's Office of Public Affairs, who justified press office chaperoning of agency experts and portrayed the typical reporter as inexperienced and ignorant.
The U.S. EPA has been stonewalling a June 2014 SEJ request for documents describing its policies for dealing with news media. Now SEJ is appealing the long delay in responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by calling it what it is — a denial of information.
There used to be a searchable, online database of oil and chemical spill reports that reporters could turn to in an emergency to get insight into important breaking news. But ham-handed security efforts have sabotaged the public's right to know. Right now, emergency responders are working on a spill of a cancer-causing fuel additive known as MTBE. But news reporters probably couldn't get much if any helpful information from the database today (we checked).