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Opinion >  Letters

Journalistic standards?

I am writing with concern about Dave Nichol’s placement of this paragraph in the article Feds Remove Gray Wolf from Endangered Species List in Friday’s paper:

“In 2019, peer reviews commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service found that the agency’s proposal contained substantial errors and misrepresented current science on wolf conservation. The five reviewers unanimously criticized the delisting proposal, and four offered strong opposition.” [emphasis added]

Very early in the article your reporter wrote about Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Rep. Newhouse, and Ashley House of the WA Cattlemen’s Association all quoting science as the basis for the delisting: “best scientific…data available”, “sound science”, “confidence in the science.”

Many readers would stop right there, wrongfully assuming these statements correctly represented the story that “science” told.

The critically important information that peer reviews — the gold standard of science — commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service itself, found substantial errors and misrepresentations, and that reviewers unanimously criticized delisting was buried in the middle of your article.

In The Elements of Journalism, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel talk about essential principles and practices of journalism, including its “first obligation is to the truth” and “its essence is a discipline of verification.”

Surely the fact that these 3 officials were completely mistaken in their statements qualified as important information that should have been included right after quoting them, if not before, to set the context for these inaccuracies.

In the future, please provide better context for false statements such as these.

Susan Virnig

Spokane


 

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