Yes, Virginia, We Do Have a Bias

Published December 1, 1999

Here at Environment News, we slant all our stories heavily toward the truth.

Why admit that now? I recently received a call from a young woman who said she was a legislative assistant for a state legislator. She was adamant in her criticism of this publication for being biased; for reporting opinions as fact; and for running only negative stories. For good measure, she added we were the laughing stock of her state’s capital.

She couldn’t articulate just what she thought our bias was. The few examples of opinion-as-fact she pointed out turned out to be not the case at all, in several cases direct quotes from members of Congress or other sources. I pointed her in the direction of half a dozen or so stories in the September issue that struck me as quite positive; she reacted with a simple “Oh” to each example. When encouraged to direct me to any mis-statements of fact, she couldn’t.

Of course, we aren’t perfect. Sometimes we make honest, and dumb, mistakes. A number of issues ago, for example, we suggested the Clinton-Gore administration had given up on the Kyoto Protocol. That story is still taped to my desk. It humbles.

But it seemed to me that the legislative aide hadn’t actually read much of Environment News.

So, what was it she really didn’t like about this publication? My guess it is what we report, not how we report it. So, maybe it’s time we explained ourselves.

Environment News is devoted to learning and presenting relevant, truthful, and substantiated information about environment issues–information generally ignored by the popular press but readily available in scientific and public policy communities. We feel a heavy responsibility to do this well, because our work is having a growing influence on public policy.

Not that the Environment News staff is God’s gift to environmental journalism. But we do feature some of the country’s best writers and consultants on environmental affairs.

Bonner Cohen, Ph.D. is a senior fellow at the Lexington Institute and long-time editor of EPA Watch. Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan is president of the American Council on Science and Health, world-renowned for its work on the environment and health. David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, and John Carlisle, director of the center’s Environmental Policy Task Force, are recognized authorities in the field. James Sheehan, R.J. Smith, and Angela Logomisini are environmental experts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, as is Angela Antonelli at The Heritage Foundation. The publication is overseen by Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute and coauthor of one of the decade’s most widely distributed books on environment policy, Eco-Sanity: A Common-Sense Guide to Environmentalism.

If we make mistakes around this crowd, we hear about it.

Of course, the urge to editorialize is always there. As I was working on this month’s story about animal rights and law, one of the family cats retrieved a mouse from the woods and proceeded to crush its skull and devour everything but the tail. It would have been fun to write a eulogy for the mouse and a nine-count indictment of the cat. I didn’t . . . but might yet. If you want to read it, you’ll have to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope, because that sort of thing won’t appear on these pages.

You also won’t see in Environment News the kinds of stories we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the popular press: scare stories, unsupported by sound science or even common sense, about global warming, pesticides, electromagnetic fields, over-population, natural resource depletion, etc.

As for being the laughing stock of the legislative assistant’s capital . . . it’s nice to be able to entertain as well as inform.