If you expect nothing from the press office, you will rarely be disappointed. Even getting a callback before your deadline is a major feat. Good stories rarely come from a call to the press office, but there are times when you have to call them. Even public affairs professionals admit that good reporters do their best to circumvent the public affairs people. Try these tips!
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
Journalists of all stripes heard a panel debate: "Government Public Affairs Offices: More Hindrance Than Help?" August 12, 2013, at the National Press Club, with unsurprising results. The real news may have been presentation of results of a survey conducted by an assistant professor at Kennesaw State University. To risk summarizing in a headline: things are as bad as SEJ members have complained they are.
Here's more evidence of why documents should be leaked to reporters: a Powerpoint obtained by LA Times' Neela Banerjee shows EPA's Region 3 staff argued a year ago for continuing its investigation of fracking pollution around Dimock, PA — as EPA HQ announced it was ending its study of Dimock wells. Now there's an echo in Pavillion, WY.Region:
House and Senate Republicans made a big deal over EPA "transparency" while McCarthy's nomination was being held up in the Senate, for 130 days. Then on July 9, 2013, the Senate Environment Committee's ranking minority member said he would drop his filibuster threat because EPA had agreed to some of his demands on transparency.
Science is the key to many environmental stories, and EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) offers a wide range of data tools journalists may find worthwhile to explore.
Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health show silica used in hydraulic fracturing of tight oil and gas formations can endanger workers. But a FOIA request seeking to know the sites where workers had been endangered has met with no response, independent journalist and SEJ member Elizabeth Grossman reports.
If you want to take advantage of EPA databases to report on local (or even national) environmental conditions, this tool is a step beyond the all-in-one EPA data interfaces many journalists are used to, in that it catalogs some of the less-known specialized databases. It is unusual among government data programs in that it explicitly encourages third-party developers to build apps based on open agency data.
[SEE UPDATE: Cal Assembly Walks Back CPRA Attack.] The last-minute sneak attack on open government was crafted and pushed through by Brown's own party. Local governments would be legally able to ignore the major requirements of the Public Records Law which force them to respond to freedom-of-information requests and justify any denial of requests.Topics on the Beat:Region:
Canada's Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault will be investigating the muzzling of Canadian scientists — a perennial complaint of SEJ's Canadian members who can not freely interview tax-funded scientists about subjects like climate. SEJ has twice urged Environment Canada to end such media policies, receiving no answer.Region:
The unanimous decision turned down a FOIA request by a California resident for records in Virginia. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, only a "handful" of states have similar residents-only restrictions to their FOI laws. But the doctrinal impact of the decision is likely to be large, since the court held, among other things, that the First Amendment conveys no right of access to government information.