Environmental journalists commonly grouse about obstacles the press office at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency throws up when reporters want to talk to its scientists. Might a newly proposed scientific integrity policy help change that? The WatchDog Opinion column, which regularly joins in the censuring, says there’s a chance it could. But will it? Why the outlook is cloudy.
For environmental journalists who recall the first Trump administration’s hostility toward media, the prospects of a second Trump presidency are troubling. But not nearly as worrying, WatchDog Opinion writes, as what a Trump reelection would mean for press freedom as a whole, nor for the democracy that hinges on that freedom. Read why the risks of journalists being targeted are real.
While government censorship may worry journalists, so should self-censorship. That’s the warning in this month’s WatchDog Opinion, whether self-censorship’s “chilling effect” is driven by fears of attack, legal or physical, or by distortions in what it means to be fair, a “bothsidesism” usually pushed by one-sided players. But the bottom line, the column argues, is that when the truth is knowable and known, journalists owe it to their audiences to make the call.
When the governor of Nebraska personally attacked an investigative reporter who’d covered environmental problems in his family business, it drew a national spotlight and a quick response from free press supporters, including the Society of Environmental Journalists. WatchDog Opinion looks at what happened and observes that politicians’ name-calling of journalists has an unfortunate history — but must never be allowed to stop the truthtelling.
How did the Lahaina wildfire spark an AI-driven influence campaign out of China? Perhaps a technological leap. Or perhaps, the new WatchDog Opinion column suggests, a natural evolution of a decades-old disinformation playbook with roots in a war against science and culminating in climate denial. A look at the disturbing prospects and a plea for journalists not to sidestep the phenomenon but to cover it.
It may seem like fast-moving technology that’s undermining traditional news outlets. But for WatchDog Opinion, it may be more about the notion of news as property, rather than a public good. Could nonprofit newsrooms — many of which cover energy and the environment — be a better model? And is there a funding mechanism that would support them sustainably … and permanently?
A recent gathering of Nobel laureates in Washington, D.C., including Filipina journalist Maria Ressa (pictured, left), highlighted the growing risks of disinformation — including on efforts to combat climate change — but also the rising sense of hope that comes from those who pledge to stand up to its challenge. This month’s WatchDog Opinion column shares a perspective from the event.
Attacks of all kinds on U.S. journalists clearly hamper a free press. And environmental journalists are not spared such aggressions, especially when covering contested places like pipeline construction sites. WatchDog Opinion outlines the problem and explores how journalists might be spared from such violations, including with a prospective law explicitly protecting journalists from assault.
Not only did the huge legal settlement in the Dominion Voting Systems libel suit against Fox Corp. help reinforce media libel protections set out decades ago in New York Times v. Sullivan. It also served as a reminder for environmental journalists that the “actual malice” standard is a bulwark for their own (often negative) reporting on big corporations. WatchDog Opinion explains.
For journalists of all stripes, the central pillar of libel law protecting them from damaging defamation suits is Times v. Sullivan. And while at least a couple of Supreme Court justices have indicated an openness to reevaluating the decades-old decision, WatchDog Opinion warns that the real risk to defamation protections may come in the form of legislation, such as from states like Florida.