Don't get us wrong: the U.S. federal government's openness to public scrutiny leaves much to be desired. Still, it's worth noting that some improvements have taken place. Here are a few prominent ones. Image: Clipart.com.
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Journalism may finally be ready to stride into the brave new techno-world of drone reporting now that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a regulation removing the previous cloud of illegality and uncertainty. It's just the beginning.
FOIA reform: it's all over but the shouting — and the implementation. The package of amendments to FOIA features codification of the "presumption of openness," would establish a single online federal portal for FOIA requests and strengthen the role of the Office of Government Information Services. Image: Clipart.com.Topics on the Beat:
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which takes money the feds get from offshore drilling and parcels it out to federal, state and local agencies for parks and conservation land, is a goldmine for environmental stories by enterprising reporters. And now InvestigateWest, a non-profit watchdog journalism outlet, has made LWCF sleuthing easier by compiling an easy-to-use database of LWCF grants made between 1965 and 2011.Topics on the Beat:
The draft Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty is still being kept secret from the hundreds of millions of people whom it will affect. It matters for environmental journalists as trade treaties often set up mechanisms for corporations to negate the environmental laws of signatory countries. Image: WikiLeaks.
Environmental journalists are not alone in their frustrations with the federal officials who are supposed to help journalists get information about what government is doing. Now the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) has surveyed its members and found the federal government often blocks access to information that health care journalists seek.
Senator Charles Grassley's opinion matters because he chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over FOIA. He also sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Some commenters say Donald Trump has declared "war on the press." But Hillary Clinton has herself given little access to the news media during the campaign so far. Worse yet, parts of the news media seem to be making the problem worse, by not advocating for press freedom and open information. Profits and ratings have trumped the First Amendment.
Jim Holzer, head of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), a post often called the FOIA Ombudsman, has decided to step down after less than a year on the job. Some Freedom of Information Act advocates are seeing this as a discouraging sign.Topics on the Beat:
The multibillion-dollar Green Climate Fund, established after the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks to help developing countries adapt, offers many kinds of news to environmental reporters. So controversies around the fund's information disclosure policies are important.