The SEJ WatchDog

 

The WatchDog TipSheet is a monthly source of story ideas, articles, updates, events and other information with a focus on freedom-of-information issues of concern to environmental journalists in both the United States and Canada.

Journalists can receive WatchDog TipSheet free by subscribing to the SEJournal Online, the digital news magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here

WatchDog TipSheet is also available through the searchable archive below and via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

December 2, 2015

  • The University of Missouri "safe space" incident on Nov 9, 2015 rekindled questions and debate about journalists' First Amendment right of access to spaces. One of the best practical guides to law on this issue is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press publication, "A Reporter's Field Guide."

  • 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.

  • States often keep consumer complaint data, and it may be available under public records laws. The nonprofit consumer group Truth in Advertising recently finished a review of all 50 U.S. states' consumer complaint databases — and how easy they were to access.

  • It's never too early for journalists to complain about secrecy. Case in point: the database of drone owners which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to register. A key task force recently recommended that the database be exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act.

November 11, 2015

  • 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.

  • The speed and ease of this Canadian revolution by incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau belies the "common wisdom" among many jaded reporters and PR professionals that muzzling of U.S. government scientists and officials is somehow inevitable and woven into the culture of government.

  • 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+.

  • 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.

October 28, 2015

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