Not everybody loves freedom of information. Those who do celebrate "Sunshine Week" annually in hopes of educating the public about why they need to know what their governments are up to. This year, Sunshine Week will get extra oomph from the fact that the Freedom of Information Act is turning 50 years old.
- SEJ Publication Types:Visibility:
The database, which covers a list of some 689 toxic chemicals, includes self-reported information about dangerous chemicals handled and released at industrial facilities during 2014, the latest year for which data is available. Companies reported the 2014 totals in mid-2015.
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.Topics on the Beat:Region:
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).Topics on the Beat:
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.Topics on the Beat:
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.