Some major U.S. journalism organizations are increasingly fed up with federal public affairs offices acting "more like prison guards than gate-keepers." The latest outbreak of frustration was at a March 19, 2014, panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Read comments by panelists — who agreed that the situation would not get better without organized and creative pushback from journalists.
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Journalism and open-government groups will mount a host of special projects and forums March 16-22, 2014, to pry loose the secrets of a government that is supposed to be accountable to the public. Here are some key links and events.Topics on the Beat:
Don't polish your glasses — you read it right. Bipartisan. By a vote of 410-0. The bill makes several modest improvements in the Freedom of Information Act; it should strengthen the presumption in favor of disclosure of government records, authorize a central tracking system for FOIA requests and strengthen the role of the Office of Government Information Services.
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.
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.
As efforts to suppress science go, the Interior Department's dunking-stool investigation of scientist Charles Monnett (who published observations that polar bears were drowning because of ice retreat) was quite a story. Now, with a $100,000 settlement, it is a story that may never be fully told, including whether there was evidence of political interference by top Interior officials.
Thanks to the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, here are several recent Congressional Research Service reports relevant to environment and energy.
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?
You may call that government official a "source" — but to the Obama administration he or she is an "Insider Threat" subject to lie detector tests, wiretapping, and criminal prosecution. That's the conclusion of a new report by former Washington Post Executive Editor Len Downie, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).Topics on the Beat: