10 Key Open-Gov Resources for Environmental Journalists

March 10, 2010

Next week is Sunshine Week, and the stalwart if shrinking corps of journalists continues to expose the secrets the government doesn't want voters and taxpayers to know about. It's a hard job and getting harder.

SEJ's WatchDog has gathered a list of 10 essential resources for environmental reporters seeking better access to government information:

1. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Publishes a suite of authoritative booklets on journalists' rights of access to information — and practical how-to's on using them most effectively. They offer free legal advice for journos.

2. The Sunlight Foundation. Incites and supports use of digital tools to overcome government efforts to hide the truth about its occasionally sleazy behavior. Tools for all!

3. Society of Professional Journalists' Freedom of Information Committee. Watchdogs press freedom and info-access issues in most of the 50 states. Who's active in your state?

4. National Freedom of Information Coalition. Builds networks of reporters and grass-roots FOI activists in most states. Now has Knight money to help fund FOI court cases.

5. Freedom Forum/First Amendment Center. Funded via the Gannett legacy, the First Amendment Center offers numerous programs and information sources.

6. Federal FOIA Offices. The Freedom of Information Act office at each federal agency is a starting point for specific document requests.

7. Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy. Justice's OIP is the ultimate and authoritative source for legal interpretations of the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act.

8. Government Attic. An invaluable trove of lists and documents from federal agencies that you might not otherwise see. Searchable online. Go rummage. You never know what you'll find.

9. Investigative Reporters and Editors. Start by joining IRE. Then you'll have full access to their rich range of tips, tools, and databases — a virtual gumshoe paradise. Home of the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting.

10. Center for Responsive Politics. A user-friendly, searchable online data-world about money and politics. Includes more than just Federal Election Commission data — such as Congressional lobbying disclosures. Instant exposé.