Gloucester Times Uncovers Journalist-Environmentalist Caribbean Retreat

The next time an environmental story in the New York Times smells fishy, double-check to make sure its not the residue of old sun tan lotion you smell.

In a June 28 story for the Gloucester Times, reporter Nancy Gaines revealed an October 2002 five day retreat hosted by the Pew Charitable Trusts in the Caribbean where the goal was to “train scientists to better market the message.” Gaines reported that Pew invited prominent science journalists from the New York Times, Time magazine, and US News and World Report, among others, to "help scientists to speak more clearly to the public," Cornelia Dean of the Times said.

Additionally, Gaines examined the relationship between the Pew Center and the environmental journalists, noting that Pew paid for many of the journalists to attend, and that many of the scientists the journalists met at the retreat became sources in later stories:

“In June 2003, eight months after Bonaire, Tom Hayden warned of the cataclysmic consequences of overfishing in a cover story for U.S. News and World Report," Gaines wrote. 

The story, "Fished Out," quoted 13 different concerned scientists and citizens coming to the same awful conclusion: Jellyfish might one day be fishermen's only catch.

Although Hayden was virtually unknown in commercial fishing circles, his story had the potential to influence the American public's view of the fishing industry.

Hayden did not mention to his readers that, of the 14 sources he quoted for the article, 13 received their funding directly or indirectly from Pew, as Pew fellows or the recipients of Pew grants. The 14th was a restaurant chef.”

According to Gaines, the Pew junket was just one example of Pew and other nonprofits actively encouraging – with material assistance from journalists – scientists to become activists, “manipulating the media message.”

“Jane Lubchenco, now head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” and a Pew fellow, has said “Scientists must promote their ideas to politicians and the public in order to create a world that is ‘ecologically sound, economically feasible and socially just,’” Gaines wrote.

To that end Lubchenco has founded several advocacy groups that work to teach scientists to “frame their messages” through the use of “talking points.” The teachers? “[R]eporters for the New York Times, the Washington Post and National Public Radio, as well as leaders of environmental groups and White House and congressional staff members.”

The relationship between Pew and members of the media has long been quite friendly, with organizations like ABC and CBS often turning to the liberal nonprofit for quotes. As for journalists, when they’re not championing green causes at conferences and in their work, we can find them basking in the sun with their science and environmentalist buddies.

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