The SEJ WatchDog

 

The WatchDog TipSheet is a biweekly 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. To subscribe to the e-newsletter, email your name and preferred email address to sej@sej.org

WatchDog TipSheet is also available through the searchable archive below and via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

December 16, 2015

December 2, 2015

  • The University of Missouri "safe space" incident on Nov 9, 2015 rekindled questions and debate about journalists' First Amendment right of access to spaces. One of the best practical guides to law on this issue is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press publication, "A Reporter's Field Guide."

  • States often keep consumer complaint data, and it may be available under public records laws. The nonprofit consumer group Truth in Advertising recently finished a review of all 50 U.S. states' consumer complaint databases — and how easy they were to access.

  • Here are some reports of possible interest to environmental journalists from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Congress does not release them to the public, but the Union of Concerned Scientists' Government Secrecy Project does.

  • One reason for thinking the White House endorses and enforces tight message control is the fact that many agency press secretaries come from a background of working on presidential elections campaigns. Journalism groups have raised their hopes now that a meeting with the White House has been scheduled mid-December. At the meeting will be representatives of SEJ, the Society of Professional Journalists and possibly others, representing concerns of a coalition of more than 50 other j-groups.

  • It's never too early for journalists to complain about secrecy. Case in point: the database of drone owners which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to register. A key task force recently recommended that the database be exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act.

November 11, 2015

  • A disturbing story of poor chemical company compliance with environmental and safety rules was released October 22, 2015, by a watchdog group. It could have — and perhaps should have — been done by a news publication. And it shows the use journalists could make of several key databases.

  • An important, but little-known, transparency law requires that FAC meetings be open to the public. But a new study shows that more than two-thirds of the time, they are not. On those committees, industry "experts" who have a financial stake may be telling agencies to ignore scientific findings in their regulation of things like environmental health and toxic chemicals.

  • The Center for Public Integrity systematically rated the 50 state governments on various measures of integrity. One of those was transparency. Only three states scored higher than D+.

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