December 21, 2021 – Today, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI)’s Website Monitoring Team releases Crossing the Line: Analyzing EPA News Releases Under Trump and Ensuring Trust in Federal Information in the Future. This report examines the overt politicization of EPA’s news releases under the Trump administration and recommends guidelines to help protect the integrity of information coming from the EPA’s press office.
In a healthy society, the public needs to be able to trust information disseminated by its government. The 2024 elections may prove pivotal for our democracy, and the time is now to act to protect against government abuses and rebuild public trust. Scrutinizing government communications with the public is a first step.
News releases are one of the most frequent forms of communication between agencies and the public and a key tool to encourage public support of an agency and its actions. Yet news releases are particularly susceptible to crossing the line from informing the public to promoting partisan political agendas, and under the Trump administration, this led to overt political jockeying. Crossing the Line provides a comprehensive analysis of EPA news releases during the Trump administration and identifies four themes of overt politicization:
- Using testimonials from politicians to promote a deregulatory agenda
- Using adversarial, hostile language
- Promoting spin, particularly through the selective inclusion of facts and aggrandizement of President Trump
- Posting articles already published in the press
Regulating information disseminated through news releases is not straightforward. Currently news releases are exempt from the rules and guidelines governing agency information quality. Based on their analysis, EDGI’s Website Monitoring Team recommends six guidelines to help protect the integrity of public information disseminated by federal agencies. They recommend that federal agency news releases:
- Convey professionalism through tone and subject matter
- Establish and maintain higher standards for newsworthiness
- Publish accurate information
- Are archived and accessible
- Do not promote private news interests
- Do not serve as vehicles for campaigning
CONTACT: Report authors are available for interview. To set up media interviews or for other inquiries, please contact Shannan Lenke Stoll, ShannanStoll.firstname.lastname@example.org.