Should Credible News Organizations Call Us Extremists?
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?