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

October 9, 2013

  • If you have a FOIA request pending, it is likely to be on hold. Moreover, the people who could verify this are not answering the phone. Want to file a new FOIA request? Good luck. The federal government is shut down, and as of now there is no sign that it will go back to work.

  • A U.S. district judge on October 2, 2013, brushed aside claims by EPA and the Luminant Corp. that information related to pollution from the company's coal-burning power plants was "confidential business information" — which seems to be a growing excuse for withholding public-interest information.

  • OpenTheGovernment.org publishes an annual report on quantifying government secrecy with specific numeric indicators. This year it began with a bombshell statement — saying it could not really guarantee all of its numbers because nobody could any longer trust what the US government tells its citizens in this area.

  • When the Oregon government refused to tell her about oil trains, Eugene Weekly environment reporter Camilla Mortensen (pictured) learned about them from a train-hopping local cinematographer. Now you can roam the freight yards with your camera and know what you are looking at. And/or download the UN Number app.

September 25, 2013

  • On Saturday, October 5: At 9:00 a.m. SEJ FOI Task Force Chair Tim Wheeler of the Baltimore Sun will moderate a session on overcoming obstacles put up by agency press offices to reporters who want to interview government officials. At 10:45 a.m. WatchDog Editor Joe Davis will present a hands-on session with tips for sleuthing dam and levee stories using federal databases like the National Inventory of Dams and the National Levee Database.

  • Incoming EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy may have signaled an opening in the agency's long-troubled relations with the news media during her September 20, 2013, announcement of EPA's carbon rule at the National Press Club.

  • News broken this month by Politico revealed the existence of a Koch brothers fund that quietly handed out some $250 million to conservative causes during the 2012 elections. Under U.S. law, such groups are tax-exempt, can raise unlimited amounts of money, and do not have to disclose their donors.

  • In 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) required publicly traded companies to disclose to their stockholders (and the public) what business risks they might face from climate change. Almost three-quarters of the companies are still ignoring the rule, and their shareholders are flying blind.

  • In 2010, BLM denied Horseback Magazine photojournalist Laura Leigh access to federal land to photograph a roundup. She went to court, was rejected, then went to a complex chain of appeals. Now the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other j-groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of photojournalists' First Amendment rights to cover government actions.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12, 2013, approved a bill shielding journalists from being compelled to reveal their confidential sources. Its prospects for enactment look iffy in a Congress noted for gridlock. The panel approved the bill (S 987, titled "The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013) by a 13-5 vote.

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