CDC, EPA Respond to SEJ Complaints about Press Office Obstacles

February 5, 2014

After the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists complained January 20, 2014, about federal agency press office stonewalling in the face of the Charleston, WV, drinking water disaster, the agencies responded.

"We agree that early, complete and on-the-record information released to the public through the media and directly by concerned leaders in their community is the best way to foster confidence by community members," wrote Barbara Reynolds, Director of Public Affairs at the Centers for Disease Control in a January 22, 2014, e-mail.

"EPA remains committed to transparency and helping reporters and the public understand the potential risks associated with the spill, the various roles of state, local and federal governments, as well as the role of the company involved," wrote Tom Reynolds, the Environmental Protection Agency's Associate Administrator for External Affairs.

In his letter, EPA's Reynolds said the agency "responded directly and in a timely fashion to inquiries from more than two dozen media outlets." That account differs with the experience of Ken Ward Jr., who reported the crisis for the Charleston Gazette, the paper that informed most of the 300,000 residents who lost their drinking water. Although he asked EPA for a response, Ward was unable to get anyone from EPA on the record for almost a week. Ward was filing several stories daily at the time.