Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tx.) has introduced legislation that appears to allow cosmetics manufacturers to keep product complaints reported to the federal government secret. The legislation (H.R. 575), appears to allow the executive branch wide latitude to determine through regulation what agencies must require manufacturers to disclose publicly. “(g) List.—The Secretary shall compile and maintain an up-to-date and publicly available electronic list of cosmetics and ingredients for which statements are submitted under this section. A statement submitted pursuant to this section shall not be subject to disclosure under section 552 of title 5, United States Code. The Secretary may make publicly [More]
Journalism at its best is guided by the search for truth and holding the powerful to account. This is not some academic exercise or noble goal. Resources abound for learning about how the news media takes seriously its commitment to accuracy. An important starting point is the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which lays out four commitments for journalists: seek the truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent. The SPJ website provides detailed guidance on work by the Code, and it gives good grounding for any person with questions about how journalists do their work.
PRESS RELEASE — FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sunshine in Government Initiative changes name to News Media for Open Government, Re-focuses on defending and advancing newsgathering and open government January 18, 2017 — After more than a decade of work to advance government transparency, the Sunshine in Government Initiative (SGI), a coalition of nine leading journalism associations, is today announcing a new name and broadened focus on threats to newsgathering and open government. Going forward SGI will be known as News Media for Open Government. Members of the coalition include: American Society of News Editors, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, The Associated [More]
President-elect Trump used Twitter to announce he asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to identify who provided to NBC News a memorandum outlining the intelligence community’s assessment of efforts by the Russian government to influence the presidential election. A threat of an investigation by Congress into unauthorized disclosures to the news media should be taken seriously. As has been widely reported, the report obtained by NBC the version for public release, not the classified version with sensitive details describing how the information was compiled. Reporting based in part on unauthorized disclosures is at times a useful way to put together an accurate picture of key events [More]
Legislation approved on January 12 by the full House of Representatives to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (H.R. 238) contains an exemption to disclosure under federal FOIA for information CFTC may “asertain” regarding complicated trading structures known as commodity pools and client accounts. As introduced, the legislation required that the information be treated as investigative material. CFTC could publish aggregated information the disclosure of which would not identify “any person or firm, or such person’s proprietary information.” On its face, the exemption appears to cover a broad amount of information, including: “(A) the commodity trading advisor, commodity pool operator or the trading strategies of [More]
The incoming Trump administration has a narrower window for affecting how agencies implement their obligations under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) than previous presidents, however each administration sets the tone for disclosure decisions in cases where agencies have discretion. With the enactment of the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, Congress wrote into law an explicit requirement that agencies disclose information requested under FOIA unless they foresee a harm to a protected interest, such as national security or personal privacy. While the new administration cannot change the presumption of openness by executive action alone, it can influence what agencies do (or don’t do) when [More]
The American public has an inalienable right to exercise beliefs, speak freely, access a free press, assemble and petition the government. Working as the Sunshine in Government Initiative from 2005 until 2017, News Media for Open Government is a broad coalition of news media and journalism organizations working to ensure laws, policies and practices preserve and protect freedom of the press, open government and the free flow of information in our democratic society. Through accurate newsgathering and reporting, the news media help the public understand what the government is doing in its name. The coalition upholds and strengthens the relationship [More]
Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions will likely face questions on FOIA and other topics affecting open government during two scheduled days of confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee starting on Tuesday, January 10.
In recent years groups inside and outside of government have created new tools for FOIA administration, such as iFOIA, MuckRock, and FOIA Machine. In addition, the federal government built its own FOIAonline. Local governments, too, are getting into the game. Many years ago we extolled the virtues of agencies building a system to more efficiently receive, track, process and respond to FOIA requests. And Congress included a portal requirement in legislation in FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. FOIA Tools Inside Government FOIA.gov (built and administered by the Department of Justice Office of Information Policy) currently provides an introduction to FOIA, tutorials on [More]
Unnamed sources can undermine an audience’s belief that a story is true. It’s good for an audience to be skeptical. Here’s how veteran journalists use unnamed sources and ensure they are reporting factual information by relying on multiple sources to get the story right.