The SEJ WatchDog


Searchable archives of the biweekly WatchDog TipSheet's story ideas, articles, updates, events and other information with a focus on freedom-of-information issues of concern to environmental journalists in both the U.S. and Canada are posted here on the day of publication. Journalists are eligible for a free email subscription; send name and full contact information to the SEJ office. WatchDog TipSheet is also available via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

December 18, 2013

  • Even the WatchDog gets a year-end review. Please let us know how we can help you, what we are doing right, and how we can do better.

  • Industry groups and government agencies are outsourcing the job of spying confidentially on environmental journalists to firms that hire former NSA, CIA, and FBI investigators. You are not supposed to know this. For example, Wikileaks recently released documentation on for-hire intelligence agency Stratfor's spying on award-winning ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten.

  • It's true. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) helps well-heeled industry lobbyists thwart rules to protect public safety and health. Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin proves it with documents and insider interviews showing how election politics trumped open government, regulatory law, and public health in the run-up to the 2012 election.

December 4, 2013

  • Reporting on abuse of animals is now officially a crime — at least under Colorado law. Animal-rights activist Taylor Radig was charged after she made public a video showing employees of a Colorado ranch abusing calves. 

  • The report documents the startling breadth of corporate spying on nonprofit groups that oppose corporate policies — especially environmental groups. Much of the spying is done by contractors using former government security agency employees — and some is done with complicity or help from the FBI or CIA.

  • Environmental journalists who want to explore the impacts of toxic substances on wildlife, fish, and plants can get help from a little-known EPA database. Online and searchable, ECOTOX has gotten better over the years, making it useful for reporters as well as scientists.

  • As efforts to suppress science go, the Interior Department's dunking-stool investigation of scientist Charles Monnett (who published observations that polar bears were drowning because of ice retreat) was quite a story. Now, with a $100,000 settlement, it is a story that may never be fully told, including whether there was evidence of political interference by top Interior officials.

  • OSHA's proposed silica rule "requests" (not requires) that commenters state clearly who paid for any research they cite and declare whether there may be possible conflicts of interest or whether the funder of the research may have influenced its findings. But 16 Senate Republicans have complained of OSHA's request for funding disclosure.

November 20, 2013

  • Some hope for more open government at the federal level emerged November 18, 2013, when the House passed a bill known as the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act aimed at improving public data about federal spending. The hope was bolstered by the fact that the bill passed the House by a bipartisan 388-1 recorded vote.

  • A New Jersey chemical company, Elementis Chromium, will have to pay a $2.6 million fine for failing to disclose information about the toxicity of hexavalent chromium to workers, in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).