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

May 4, 2011

  • Last year, legislation to put new teeth in federal whistleblower protections failed when a single senator put a secret hold on it late in the session. The good news is Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) has introduced the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011 to restart the legislative effort.

April 20, 2011

  • Denial of news media access to Gulf beaches has been an issue since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. There's tussling over access to (and interpretation of) scientific information on possible impacts of the spill on the Gulf ecosystem. And The Guardian obtained >30,000 pages of BP in-house memos FOIA'd by Greenpeace, which suggest BP was working hard to influence the results of the research it was paying for.

  • A former employee of a restaurant in Acadia National Park won a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over records the National Park Service had refused to release, about a 2008 incident when he was among those detained by Park Service police.

  • If you spend a lot of time researching things on the Internet as part of your reporting, the online Data Science Toolkit, which is especially handy with geographic data, and a book by Pete Warden could make parts of your job a lot easier.

  • A top Wisconsin Republican party official on March 17 filed a request under the state's freedom-of-information law for emails written by University of Wisconsin's William J. Cronon, after the professor blogged about the American Legislative Exchange Council, an anti-regulatory group that lobbies state legislatures.

April 6, 2011

  • The intrepid Mac McClelland, who covered the spill and secrecy at its peak for Mother Jones, went back to see if anything had changed. But BP's cops tried to stop her.

  • Watchdogs were alarmed last week that the GOP "budget-cutting" campaign had targeted OpenGov data programs in order to fund tax cuts for billionaires. But sharp-eyed Daniel Schuman has been covering the developments on the Sunlight Foundation's blog since the first fiscal year 2011 budget bill passed.

  • The draft policy, released recently by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), barely addresses media access. It leaves this to the purview of the Commerce Department Public Communications Policy — which has not changed since the last year of the Bush administration.

  • The Freedom-of-Information establishment annually tries to remind the citizens and journalists of our democracy that this form of government must have a free press and lots of information to be healthy. This year was no exception. They celebrated "Sunshine Week," advancing freedom-of-information on many fronts.

  • AP reported President Barack Obama received an award "for making the government more open and transparent — presented to him behind closed doors with no news coverage or public access allowed." The event offered evidence that Obama's minders may be the worst enemies of his presidency — and that the PR pros are badly fumbling the PR ball.