Via The N.Y. Transfer News Service 718-448-2358, 718-448-2683 by harelb@math.cornell.edu (

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Via The N.Y. Transfer News Service 718-448-2358, 718-448-2683 by harelb@math.cornell.edu (Harel Barzilai) Phil Shabecoff, who covered the environment for the _New York Times_ for 14 years, left the paper after being switched to the IRS beat. "I was told my coverage was considered pro-environment, whatever that means..." - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - From: cls@truffula.portal.com (Cameron Spitzer) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - This piece appeared as a sidebar to an article on environmental reporting in the May/June issue of _EXTRA!_ magazine, from the "media watchdog" organization Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. It's for anyone who thinks they're getting fair reporting on environmental issues from the Merc or the NY Times. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Caution: Environmental Reporting Can Be Hazardous to Your Career ------------------------------------------------------------------ Glynn Wilson, an award winning reporter for the _Islander_, part of a chain of small newspapers serving the Gulf Coast of Alabama, never thought covering the environment beat would get him into trouble. Over the last three years," Wilson told EXTRA!, "I have done a tremendous amount of environmental reporting and gotten a tremendous amount of public support." But when Wilson started covering IMPRESS II, a Navy research project in the Gulf of Mexico that would simulate the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear bomb, he learned that there are some toes that can't be stepped on. After writing a three-part series (_Islander_, [Dec. 21 and 28 '91, Jan. 1 '92]) on the possible health and environmental consequences of the project, he took a vacation; he returned to find that his desk had been taken over by a newly hired editor, an ex-Navy officer with an intelligence background. The new editor told Wilson that his series was "garbage" and that the paper had received "a number of complaints" about it, although public response was heavily positive. Wilson began hearing that local Republican officials were telling the _Islander_'s publisher they were unhappy about his reporting. The last straw came when Wilson wrote an article on Alabama's U. S. representatives [Feb 19, '92] headlined "Alabama Delegation Gets an 'F' on Environmental Scorecard." That same day, he was given written notice he was fired; in the space provided for an explanation, his termination slip was marked "no information provided." Wilson is only one environmental repporter who has riled sacred cows. David Mitchell, managing editor of the _New Mexican_, was dismissed after the paper ran an expose of nuclear contamination at Los Alamos laboratories (EXTRA! Nov/Dec '91). The Montana _Missoulan_ took Richard Manning off the environmental beat after timber companies criticized his series on timber clearcutting. The same series won an award for investigative journalism, but Manning left the paper to write _Last Stand: Logging, Journalism, and the Case for Humility_ (Peregrine Smith Books). One reason smaller papers are vulnerable to pressure on environmental issues is that the area they report on is often dependent on one or two key industries. "Newspapers...are loath to criticize the heart of the local economy," Manning argues (_E_ magazine, March 4 '92). But it isn't only journalists at the little papers who have to be careful: Phil Shabecoff, who covered the environment for the _New York Times_ for 14 years, left the paper after being switched to the IRS beat. "I was told my coverage was considered pro-environment, whatever that means," Shabecoff told _The Washington Post_ (May 6, '91). The only example the _Times_ would give him of what he was doing wrong: He used the word "slaughter" to describe mass killing of dolphins. -FAIR

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