Paul D. Thacker, who was a reporter at ES&T, starting finding evidence of deliberate attempts to slant science news to benefit certain industries. Among Thacker 's findings:
- Steven J. Milloy, the publisher of JunkScience.com, which criticizes scientific research findings on topics like global climate change and health issues, was a science consultant for Philip Morris at the same time he was debunking the risks of second-hand smoke on Fox New's web site. (At this writing, JunkScience.com has posted no statement about the AIR episode.)
- A purportedly grassroots activist group in Oregon called Project Protect was connected to the timber industry. The group advocated for cutting down trees as means of preventing forest fires, a position also espoused by the industry.
- The consulting firm The Weinberg Group submitted a proposal to DuPont detailing ways to defend an allegedly carcinogenic chemical used in Teflon.
Thacker's story especially resonated because of the recent publication of ASBPE's book Journalism That Matters, which tells how B2B writers reported articles that brought about positive change in their industries. But Thacker's reporting didn't result in quite such a happy outcome as those in the book.
If you get a chance to catch a repeat of the episode, or any installation of AIR, I highly recommend it. And for a look at techniques business press reporters used to get key information for controversial articles, see this report from the ASBPE Washington, D.C., blog.
- Articles by Paul Thacker:
- "Hidden Ties," ES&T magazine, March 8, 2006
- "The Weinberg Proposal," ES&T, Feb. 22, 2006
- "How the Wall Street Journal and Rep. Barton celebrated a global-warming skeptic," ES&T, Aug. 31, 2005
- "Skeptics get a journal," ES&T, Aug. 31, 2005
Commentary on the two articles above from JunkScience.com
- "Congressman unmoved by peer review, asks to see raw data"
Commentary on above article from JunkScience.com
- A short interview with Paul Thacker from the web site of WNET, the PBS affiliate that produces AIR.