WatchDog

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The WatchDog has been published by the Society of Environmental Journalists for nearly two decades, relentlessly alerting journalists of threats to their ability to gather information and do their jobs. Thanks to funding from the Newmark Foundation — and a new sense of urgency — SEJ is renewing and redoubling this effort. In 2020, SEJournal relaunched the WatchDog in a new form — as a regularly published opinion column advocating open information in a personal voice (find the 2008-early 2020 archives of the former WatchDog Tipsheet here). The “voice” of the WatchDog will be that of columnist Joseph A. Davis (pictured, right), who has been advocating First Amendment freedom for all that time and who has been covering the environment journalistically since the 1970s. Read more about the WatchDog opinion column.

Latest WatchDog Items

May 4, 2022

  • The public’s right to know about toxic and hazardous chemicals is currently limited by trade secret rules that no longer serve any true purpose, argues the new WatchDog Opinion column. And a pending federal rulemaking is an opportunity for journalists to make the case to draw back the curtain, for the sake of their reporting and so that they can better cover their communities’ risks.

April 6, 2022

  • The Biden administration’s “whole-of-government” attack on climate change has increasingly focused on the financial arena, with the most recent move a vote by the Securities and Exchange Commission to draft rules requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose climate risks. Industry and GOP opponents are preparing for the fight over the complex regulations, and WatchDog Opinion argues environmental journalists have a big stake.

March 9, 2022

  • A coalition of open-government and journalism groups is pressing the Justice Department for a clear statement of federal policy favoring openness. The new WatchDog opinion column explains why such a move is needed, and now, not just to signal a change from the Trump-era approach, but also for smoother functioning of the all-important Freedom of Information Act.

February 9, 2022

  • Transparency and scientific integrity are good for public health and the environment, not to mention PR and politics. Yet WatchDog Opinion argues they’ve not been fully embraced by the Biden EPA. There are reasons for hope, however, in the form of a cataloging of violations and in an EPA-specific policy. Why it all matters for how environmental journalists do their jobs.

December 15, 2021

  • When disinformation pollutes the debate over the environment and climate change, it’s on journalists to recognize industry PR spin and push back against misleading narratives and false narratives, argues the latest WatchDog Opinion column. A look at the industry “playbook” to delay government action, at deceptive language on energy and news media’s obligation to approach the endless pledges skeptically.

November 17, 2021

  • Freedom of access to government scientists is just one narrow facet in a worsening crisis in scientific integrity at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new WatchDog Opinion argues that whether it’s about self-interested industry lobbying over climate change or the regulation of chemicals, there’s an assault on science itself  — and the news media has a role to play.

October 20, 2021

  • A profound tightening of companies’ environmental risk disclosure requirements may be ahead, thanks to efforts by the Biden administration’s Securities and Exchange Commission. And the new WatchDog Opinion column argues that as fossil fuel firms position themselves as part of an environmentally sound future, journalists must act too — demanding full disclosure of corporate financial risks related to climate.

September 22, 2021

  • Twenty years after the attacks on 9/11, the war on terror has left many risks in the built environment under a cloak of secrecy. For WatchDog Opinion, keeping vital information about such preventable hazards under wraps from the public and journalists is not just wrong, but bad policy. Here’s why. Plus, a rundown for environment reporters of where exactly this secrecy reigns.

August 11, 2021

  • For years, public information about some of the deadliest chemical security risks has been limited. But now that the Biden EPA is exploring the issue, our latest WatchDog opinion column explains why this is such an important open information issue for environmental reporters and other journalists.

June 23, 2021

  • Leaks are a vital source of information for the news media, but shifting White House policy on pursuing the source of leaks has created confusion and worry among news practitioners. WatchDog Opinion calls for clearer signals from the Biden administration and renews support for a federal shield law to help journalists protect their sources.

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