Monday, November 13, 2006

Science Reporter Fired for Reporting Attacks on Science

Check out the story by streaming video from America's Investigative Reports, a news show from PBS. (Episode 111, November 10, 2006.)

Paul Thacker was not hired to do investigative reporting, but rather general news reporting for ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, a peer-reviewed scientific journal serving environmental scientists worldwide. Thacker, however, found himself investigating, and debunking its operator. He went on to cases in which seemingly grassroots organizations promoted industry arguments on environmental issues.

The summary notes:
Thacker's investigative reporting, he says, didn't please some of the people he worked for, and he soon found his career on the line. He says a board member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which publishes ES&T, objected to a story he wrote about the Weinberg Group, an international scientific and regulatory consulting firm which specializes in, among other things, "product defense." Thacker's story examined a proposal made by The Weinberg Group to chemical giant DuPont. The document outlined a detailed product-defense strategy regarding PFOA, a chemical DuPont uses in the production of Teflon. The letter arrived as DuPont was facing pressure from the EPA and a civil-action lawsuit by West Virginia residents who claimed to suffer serious health effects from exposure to PFOA. Thacker says the ACS board member suggested he was focused on "muckraking rather than reporting news." He further claims that he was told to stop his investigative reporting.

He didn't. Several months later, Thacker unearthed evidence that the White House had tried to prevent scientists from speaking out about the link between climate change and the increasing strength of hurricanes. He says ES&T refused to allow him to follow the story, so he found a home for it at Then, he says, he was fired from ES&T. In a written statement, an ACS representative told AIR, " is not the policy of the American Chemical Society to comment on conditions of individual's employment or departure."

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