The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's openness has been a major issue throughout the crisis of contaminated drinking water in Flint, which has caused lead poisoning of some children. One aspect of the openness issue is the ability of agency employees to speak with journalists; another is unfulfilled FOIA requests.
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Some journalists may remember the outrage back in 2014 about the Justice Department spying on journalists. And they may even remember Attorney General Eric Holder's promise to go straight and stop doing it — via new guidelines. But Trevor Timm, writing as a columnist in the Columbia Journalism Review, tells another chapter in the story.
A similar bill almost became law in 2014, and chances of the current bill being enacted seem good. But the possibility of a last-minute derailment, especially in an election year, remains. To complicate matters, journalism and open government groups found problems with a last-minute "carve-out" for intelligence inserted at the behest of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
A new online FOIA portal being tested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation requires requesters to provide government-issued IDs. That brought a letter seeking explanation from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR, pictured).
Representatives of a coalition of 53 journalism groups met December 15, 2015, with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. The groups, including SEJ and Society of Professional Journalists, have complained about agency press offices obstructing reporters' access to officials and information.Region:
Here are some reports of possible interest to environmental journalists from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Congress does not release them to the public, but the Union of Concerned Scientists' Government Secrecy Project does.Topics on the Beat:
One reason for thinking the White House endorses and enforces tight message control is the fact that many agency press secretaries come from a background of working on presidential elections campaigns. Journalism groups have raised their hopes now that a meeting with the White House has been scheduled mid-December. At the meeting will be representatives of SEJ, the Society of Professional Journalists and possibly others, representing concerns of a coalition of more than 50 other j-groups.
A disturbing story of poor chemical company compliance with environmental and safety rules was released October 22, 2015, by a watchdog group. It could have — and perhaps should have — been done by a news publication. And it shows the use journalists could make of several key databases.
An important, but little-known, transparency law requires that FAC meetings be open to the public. But a new study shows that more than two-thirds of the time, they are not. On those committees, industry "experts" who have a financial stake may be telling agencies to ignore scientific findings in their regulation of things like environmental health and toxic chemicals.
The Center for Public Integrity systematically rated the 50 state governments on various measures of integrity. One of those was transparency. Only three states scored higher than D+.Region: