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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

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.

May 26, 2021

  • A government website that tracked climate change is back after being frozen by the Trump administration. But the return of the EPA’s climate indicator page, argues the new WatchDog opinion column, is just one step in undoing a longer-term and more systematic assault on science that has hobbled truth-seeking journalists. WatchDog on what must come next.

April 28, 2021

  • “Science is back at EPA,” declared the agency’s new administrator. But for reporters to do their job means more, argues the latest WatchDog — it means ditching a long-standing policy that requires EPA scientists have permission, along with press office “minders,” for interviews. Why that holds back quality journalism and government responsibility to protect public health. Plus, how past agency appointees have overruled science.

March 31, 2021

  • The CDC, long a storied agency of serious import not just to health and science reporters, but also to environmental journalists, took a massive hit to its credibility during the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest WatchDog opinion makes the case it can do better, and offers 15 steps that may help restore the federal entity to its gold-standard days.

March 3, 2021

  • Government suppression of science harms not just journalists, but also the public in its ability to get crucial information and trust in science, not to mention government integrity. So now is the time, asserts the new WatchDog opinion column, for news media to engage intensely over government scientific integrity policies in the making, to be sure that agencies like the EPA get it right.

February 10, 2021

January 13, 2021

November 25, 2020

  • As a new Biden administration prepares for office, WatchDog issues a call for restoring open government. The latest opinion column puts forward a list of 20 recommended actions that include outlawing assault on journalists, clearing FOIA backlogs and counteracting ag-gag laws. Plus, an updated reporter’s Bill of Rights for government press offices.

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