Access to legislatures is critical to journalistic coverage of government — at least if government is to be accountable and democratic. So it caused a stir when Arizona House Speaker David Gowan (R) banned reporters from the floor unless they passed extensive background checks.
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Grants and contracts are a key way that the agency extends the reach of its work into the world beyond agency offices. They may include an engineering project to clean up a Superfund site, an environmental education and outreach program, snow-plowing agency parking lots, expert studies, and computer services.
Maine passed a law in 2015 that allowed railroads to keep oil-train routing information from the public — over the governor's veto. In the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting's Pine Tree Watchdog, Dave Sherwood reports how the provision was a bait-and-switch.Topics on the Beat:Region:
Bad as it is, the Flint drinking water disaster is hardly uncommon. Even though the law requires authorities to tell the public of dangerous levels of lead in drinking water, they often don't.Topics on the Beat:Region:
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.
The database, which covers a list of some 689 toxic chemicals, includes self-reported information about dangerous chemicals handled and released at industrial facilities during 2014, the latest year for which data is available. Companies reported the 2014 totals in mid-2015.
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.Topics on the Beat:Region:
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.
A new online FOIA portal being tested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation requires requesters to provide government-issued IDs. That brought a letter seeking explanation from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR, pictured).Topics on the Beat: