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

February 3, 2016

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's openness has been a major issue throughout the crisis of contaminated drinking water in Flint, which has caused lead poisoning of some children. One aspect of the openness issue is the ability of agency employees to speak with journalists; another is unfulfilled FOIA requests.

  • Based on a variety of data sources, the Center for Effective Government's new map and database shows that "people of color and poor residents are significantly more likely to live near dangerous chemical facilities than white and non-poor residents" in the U.S.

  • Not everybody loves freedom of information. Those who do celebrate "Sunshine Week" annually in hopes of educating the public about why they need to know what their governments are up to. This year, Sunshine Week will get extra oomph from the fact that the Freedom of Information Act is turning 50 years old.

January 20, 2016

  • Water may be for fighting over, but water data is worth cheering about. A new Interior Department data portal may help journalists cover the ever-critical issue of water shortage and surplus in the Colorado River basin and nationwide.

  • If the water coming from your tap is unfit to drink, you have a right to know. But the crisis in Flint, Michigan, is challenging that assumption. Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (pictured) apologized to the residents of Flint, and "pledged to promptly release his emails about the issue," according to the New York Times.

  • A similar bill almost became law in 2014, and chances of the current bill being enacted seem good. But the possibility of a last-minute derailment, especially in an election year, remains. To complicate matters, journalism and open government groups found problems with a last-minute "carve-out" for intelligence inserted at the behest of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

  • Some journalists may remember the outrage back in 2014 about the Justice Department spying on journalists. And they may even remember Attorney General Eric Holder's promise to go straight and stop doing it — via new guidelines. But Trevor Timm, writing as a columnist in the Columbia Journalism Review, tells another chapter in the story.

January 6, 2016

  • Although you, as a taxpayer, pay for reports by the Congressional Research Service, Congress does not allow you to read them. Fortunately, somebody leaked these reports of interest to environmental journalists.

  • Because it is digital, the Atlas can be overlaid with many kinds of information: data on abandoned mines, coalfields, butterflies, aquifers, or invasive plants — to mention only a few examples. And because scale is variable, you can zoom in or out to customize it to your story and audience.

  • Do consumers have a right to know where their food comes from? What if there is a federal law decreeing that they have that right? Not anymore. None of that matters. International trade treaties — nowadays often negotiated in secret — trump United States law aimed at protecting consumers.

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