Investigative reporting in the environmental area depends on the Freedom of Information Act. The latest exposé on GMO lobbying in the New York Times by double-Pulitzer-winner Eric Lipton is a good example.
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You'd think there shouldn't be such a thing as a secret oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this year, the Associated Press uncovered an offshore well in the Gulf that had been leaking for a decade. Now — thanks to a lawsuit from environmentalists — the details will be revealed.Topics on the Beat:
The battleground over transparency on food origins and ingredients is much wider than labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, as journalist Elizabeth Grossman points out in a recent piece in Civil Eats.
The Center for Food Safety has sued the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service under the Freedom of Information Act for withholding information on genetically modified crops (GMOs), after unsuccessfully seeking information over a period of 13 years.
CAMEO is a free and publicly available suite of applications useful to reporters. Developed by the U.S. EPA and NOAA, it includes information about the hazards of various chemicals, as well as map overlays that may show how close a spill site is to the nearest facility of interest, such as a nursery school or retirement home.
A Maryland state judge this month ordered a state agency to give news media routing information about oil trains within Maryland — adding momentum to efforts to warn firefighters and communities about dangers they face. Photo: 2013 Lac Megantic, Quebec, disaster, by Elias Schewel/Flickr.
Abrahm Lustgarten (left) wrote a nine-part series delving into farm subsidies and water policy. But his efforts to get the actual names of farm subsidy recipients or individual water users were largely thwarted. Read how info flows less quickly to the public than money and water flow to farmers in SPJ's FOI blog. Photo credit: Lars Klove.
Federal agencies sometimes wait years to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, then ask if they are still interested in receiving the requested information. Now the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy has issued an official "guidance" that frowns slightly on overuse of the "still interested?" practice.
"The facts show the state's purpose in enacting the statute was to protect industrial animal agriculture by silencing its critics," district Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote. Sometimes investigative journalists need to go undercover. And sometimes muckraking journalists need undercover whistleblowers to tip them to abuses.
SEJ, which has complained about press-office restrictions for years, joined over 50 other journalism groups in signing an Aug 10, 2015 letter requesting government transparency — again. The groups had sent a letter to the White House in July 2014, a followup in Aug 2014, resulting in a non-response response from the WH later that month.