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

February 3, 2016

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

January 6, 2016

  • Federal District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl on December 28, 2015, ruled that a lawsuit filed by journalism and environmental groups challenging the constitutionality of Wyoming's law could continue. The state had moved to dismiss the suit.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

December 16, 2015

  • Journalists reporting on energy and natural resources just got a new data resource: a report from the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Want to know what the government gets paid for coal, oil, and mining on federal lands? It has pretty good answers.

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