21 Aug 2012 Spoiled Food Activists
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is a key element of my piece in today’s Washington Examiner.
The Foundation funds studies to advance its nanny state agenda. Their studies are often funded in partnership with government agencies (who share that agenda).
As I explain in the piece,
It was partially funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, or RWJF, which most media outlets disclosed. However, that disclosure is woefully incomplete; a distortion by omission. The typical reader would consider the funding source to bolster the credibility of the report. But I’ve found no coverage that also discloses that critical fact that the RWJF is one of the nation’s leading proponents of the very laws being evaluated for their efficacy. Everyone might safely assume pretzel purveyors oppose the laws, but not everyone will know that RWJF has a dog in the fight.
While I am not shy about calling out the media for bias and activists for their distortions used to promote bad policy, I do go out of my way to be fair and factually accurate.
So I called the RWJF to get their side of the story. I told them I had an angle on the story which might not be the typical fluff coverage they are used to, so I thought it was especially important I hear their perspective and their version of the facts before writing the piece.
I was shocked when the RWJF press officer asked if she could see my piece and approve it if she gives me an RWJF person to talk with. I simply denied her request, and again asked if she’d be able to clarify RWJF’s position on the matter without seeing my piece in advance.
She told me she’d have to get back to me. I held off on submitting the time-sensitive op-ed in order to include the foundation’s perspective. That was a mistake on my part.
I eventually received an email from RWJF press officer Christine Clayton, stating in part,
Hi Jeff. We’re uncomfortable offering a quote to be used in an opinion piece we can’t see in advance.It is evident that the RWJF media machine is only comfortable offering its perspective when it can fully control the story. No wonder they are comfortable offering quotes to New York Times reporters. The distinction they try to make between an “opinion piece” and a news article is meaningless. Whether their quote appears as part of a news story or as part of an op-ed shouldn’t matter. The purpose of the quote is to clarify the organization’s position on the matter, regardless of the format of the article.
So much for just doing unbiased science and letting the chips fall where they may.