Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nature Conservancy refutes accusation of collusion

Last week, I reported and commented on a two-part investigation of the Adirondack Park Agency by Post-Star projects' editor Will Doolittle.

In the first part, one of the parties who felt aggrieved (probably with some justification) by the APA claimed that there was a secret conspiracy between the APA and the Nature Conservancy to steal his land. Doolittle passed along this accusation without evidence or further investigation. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann DID do further research and reported categorically that he found no evidence of any collusion and plenty of belief (even by anti-APA folks) that the secrecy needed for such collusion was be virtually inconceivable.

What's interesting is a letter appeared in today's Post-Star. In it, the executive director of the Keene Valley chapter of the Nature Conservancy Michael T. Carr claimed that in a phone conversation made shortly before the articles were published, Doolittle told him that he'd "found no evidence of collusion between The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Park Agency" (the part in quotes are Doolittle's words according to Carr). As usual, the big story is featured prominently on the front page while the rebuttal is buried in a tiny side column of A5 between a big news article and ads. (Curiously, this appears to be the only day for which letters to the editor are not available on their website.)

Yet, Doolittle did not mention this very relevant piece of information in his story.

If Carr's attribution is correct, it is grotesquely reckless journalism by Doolittle and only reinforces my assertion that he, with his harsh and longstanding anti-APA position, was not the right person to do this particular article. How can you publish an unsubstantiated accusation of criminal wrongdoing by a prominent state agency by someone with an obvious ax to grind, knowing you have no evidence to believe the truth of said accusation and, in order to give sufficient context to the reader, at least not mention the fact that neither you nor the accuser had no evidence of this serious accusation? Doolittle did include the Nature Conservancy's denial but while an observant reader would've noticed that no evidence for the accuser's accusation was presented, the author did not point out this glaring omission explicitly nor is it clear if the journalist even asked for it. Still, if you're going to publish a serious accusation of criminal wrongdoing without evidence, you should at least mention the fact that you found no evidence or that the accuser refused/failed to provide it.

I've offered Doolittle the opportunity to publish a response here to my original piece, but he's so far not done so.

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