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October 18th, 2012

Should Credible News Organizations Call Us Extremists?

You spoke, KSN News listened—and aired a retraction. Can you thank them for acknowledging their error and doing the right thing by clicking on this image?

By Wenonah Hauter

Update, October 18: Food & Water Watch has learned that KSN News aired a retraction to their statement calling us extremists and ran an apology. We sincerely thank our supporters for taking action and we want to recognize KSN News for stepping up and correcting this on air.


Lately, I am haunted by the phrase, “extremist environmental groups.” I’ve been hearing those words strung together more often, and it usually comes from members of the right-wing media or the public relations team of a corporation trying to profit from a public resource. That’s expected, but what is worrying is when a mainstream news organization starts parroting these talking points. Last week, it came from a source that surprised me: KSNW, an NBC affiliate news station in Wichita, Kansas.

The station ran a short news segment about a joint lawsuit filed against the U.S. EPA by Food & Water Watch and Friends of the Earth. In the segment, KSNW made the mistake of injecting opinion into journalism by referring to us as two “extremist environmental groups.” Extremist? For what? For trying to protect the Chesapeake Bay from large companies that can pay for the “right” to pollute using entirely legal means? For trying to protect the integrity of the Clean Water Act, landmark legislation that has dramatically decreased water pollution over the past several years?

Law-abiding people and organizations that protect food and water are often painted as extreme, but it’s certainly not appropriate for a news station to editorialize in what is presented as news reporting. Our positions on various issues are based on facts, and their job should include facts when reporting the news. Nothing more.

To respond to this gaffe, we contacted the station news director and asked her to air a retraction. She responded quickly via email and agreed that the language the reporter used was inappropriate. But she did not offer to air a retraction. Here is her reply:

“The segment that you referenced was put together from our agriculture analyst and commentator. He works independently. I have discussed with him your concern over the language he used in reference to your group. I would not have used that language in a journalistic piece, and I would suggest he not use that kind of language in the future. The segment, by its nature, is meant to be analysis and interpretation. I will certainly pass on your concerns to our analyst and request that he doesn’t use the similar wording in the future. The segments are not re-aired and are also not posted to our websites, nor are those segments archived for future reference. Thanks for contacting us on this issue.”

While we appreciate this response, it is still a private one. Since many viewers saw the original segment, we would like viewers to have a chance to hear the station admit that they were wrong. This is where we could use the help of our readers and supporters. Would you be willing to take a moment and tell KSN that it’s not okay to engage in charged, ideological language in its news reporting and defame groups that aim to protect our food and water?


6 Comments on Should Credible News Organizations Call Us Extremists?

  1. Karen Fedorov says:

    I live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area and the health of that system is very important to me. Our family is very committed to clean air and water and I support both Food and Water Watch and and Friends of the Earth with a yearly donation. KSNW should do a follow up news article after researching these two highly reputable environmental organizations and clear up the misinformation that was previously aired on that station.

    Thank you for your attention to my concerns.
    Karen L Fedorov
    Bealeton, VA

  2. Rick Siegfried says:

    KSNW and NBC are extremist fascist groups.

  3. This topic reminded me of something I read earlier today:

    “Recent research has revealed unscientific and biased media coverage of water issues could be negatively impacting public engagement and understanding of water management measures.”

  4. Ruth says:

    The news is not supposed to have an “opinion”…’s the news. They’re only supposed to report factual information. Maybe we should just start calling it reality t.v. instead?

  5. Delores Bennett says:

    Pollution of the bay is a fact. Wanting to stop it is not an extremist position to take, and most people would agree. Polluters may not see it that way. Why would a news organization present them as the rational thinkers?

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