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

April 4, 2012

  • One sign of problems came when Interior's Inspector General office launched what seemed to be a ham-handed investigation, later dropped, into activities of the scientist who sounded the alarm on polar bears losing habitat to global warming. Now Interior has fired one of its scientific integrity officers — who is defending himself by saying he was just doing his job.

March 21, 2012

  • The Coast Guard defines "security zones" to protect certain sensitive facilities in its bailiwick. It does sometimes grant permission for boats to transit these zones. We suggest journalists interested in such maritime investigations contact their local Coast Guard district or station first.

  • On December 27, 2012, EPA submitted to the Office of Management and Budget its proposal to alter the interpretation of the Toxic Substances Control Act to require disclosure of the identities of the chemicals subject to health-effects studies before they are used in manufactured products. On January 20, 2012, a secret meeting took place between OMB officials and chemical industry lobbyists. We don't know what they talked about, but we do know that the meeting took place and who attended it.

  • At, search several databases with a single search-term entry, potentially speeding discovery of information. It includes data on lobbying registrations, political action committees, contributions to candidates, travel reports, foreign agents registrations, and more. But some open-government advocates consider it merely a down payment on a more comprehensive system.

  • The Mexican Senate on March 13, 2012, approved a constitutional amendment making attacks on journalists a federal crime — which would help journalists bypass possibly corrupt local police officials. The measure must now be approved by a majority of Mexico's state legislatures.

March 7, 2012

  • Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (pictured) signed the so-called "Ag Gag" bill into law March 2, 2012, making it a crime to obtain access to an agricultural facility "under false pretenses" — without defining "false pretenses." Does this apply to hidden cameras? Animal rights activists have often resorted to hidden cameras — and shared with news media photos and videos of shocking cruelty to animals.

  • Congress still refuses to publish unclassified reports on subjects of general public interest done by the Congressional Research Service, even though they are funded by taxpayer dollars. Here are several, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.

  • Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R, pictured at left), who avows himself a global warming skeptic, had sought from the University of Virginia grant applications by former U.Va. climate scientist Michael Mann, creator of the "hockey stick" graph, and emails between Mann and other scientists.

February 22, 2012

  • The complaints came out at the Vancouver meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this month — the main multidisciplinary science conference held yearly on the continent. Also during the meeting, a letter from six journalism and science groups called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end the muzzling-scientists policy was released.

  • The Patton Boggs lobbying firm, which represents the mining industry, has sent letters threatening unspecified legal action against four scientific journals if they publish results of a study about the exposure of miners to diesel emissions, according to Science magazine.