Wednesday, September 18, 2002

peter jennings cries wolf

we got an action alert from fairness & accuracy in reporting concerning a recent story on abc news by peter jennings about the reintroduction of wolves into the idaho forests. we post it here for you.

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting
Media analysis, critiques and activism

ACTION ALERT: Peter Jennings Cries Wolf

September 18, 2002

The special was called "In Search of America," but when ABC News and Peter Jennings addressed the issue of the reintroduction of wolves to Idaho (9/3/02), they gave the strong impression that they’d already decided what they would find before they started to look.

ABC told a story about the federal government forcing Idahoans to accept wolf reintroduction against their will-- with the wolves, ravenous for the flesh of cattle and sheep, now having a ruinous effect upon powerless ranchers. As Jennings suggested to one Idaho source, "This was a case of the federal government telling those of you here in the state that it was going to do what it wanted to do and you didn't have an awful lot of say in it."

You'd never guess from ABC's broadcast that, according to the Rocky Mountain News (2/5/95), 71 percent of Idahoans polled actually said that they supported reintroduction of wolves. Other polls in Idaho and around the region have shown similar results (e.g., Idaho Falls Post Register, 2/4/98). The decision to bring back the exterminated animal was made over the course of many years, involving numerous public discussions across the region that resulted in significant changes being made to the rules for reintroduction, largely to give ranchers more rights and protections.

Jennings calls wolves "one of nature's most efficient killers," and a source describes them as "a land piranha and a wildlife terrorist." And the network went out of its way to suggest financial disaster for hard-working ranching families: "All of the profit that the ranch is generating, the wolves are getting," one source claimed.

No statistics were provided to back up this assertion; Jennings says, "The number of dead livestock is difficult to confirm." But the Fish & Wildlife Service puts out a report on losses to wolves every year, based on reports from ranchers; in 2001, the survey found a total of 138 sheep and 40 cattle killed by wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. By contrast, coyotes killed more than 14,000 sheep in Montana alone, where domestic dogs killed another 1,100. Despite Jennings' claim that "the wolves have found cattle and sheep to their liking," elk and other wild animals provide the vast majority of the wolves' diet, and predation on livestock has been lower than the government anticipated.

ABC suggested that ranchers are helpless to stop the wolves from attacking their flocks and destroying their livelihoods. "As the wolf population grows, so do the livestock losses and so does the ranchers' frustration," Jennings told his audience. "They are not allowed to hunt the wolf." Actually, ranchers are allowed to shoot wolves that are attacking their animals; this rule was not mentioned in the documentary. ABC also played down the federal government's routine killing of wolves that prey on sheep-- nearly 100 have been legally killed since reintroduction began in 1995-- referring to this controversial topic in a single sentence. In a striking omission in a documentary that stressed the economic hardships posed by wolves, the program completely ignored the compensation that the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife pays to ranchers with documented losses: some $60,000 last year alone.

"Almost everywhere we went in Idaho, including the state capital, this was seen as a case of them in Washington vs. us," said Peter Jennings. Actually, ABC found many more supporters of wolves than it chose to air. The network shot footage at an Idaho wolf conference, for example, where most of the participants were pro-wolf, but only used quotes from the critics they found there (Ralph Maughan's Wildlife Report, 9/4/02). Perhaps if the sourcing had been more balanced, ABC would not have found so many inaccuracies when it went "In Search of America."

ACTION: Please tell Peter Jennings that you hope that future episodes of "In Search of America" will show more balance and fairness than was
displayed in the misleading program on wolf reintroduction.

Peter Jennings

As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if
you maintain a polite tone. Please cc with your correspondence.

A transcript of the "In Search of America" special can be found here.

Peter Jennings' response to critics of the program can be found here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

more from boxer

here's another email from senator barbara boxer, or at least from a mailbot programmed by one of her staff:

I thought you would be interested in the following update.


An Update on Children's Issues from Senator Barbara Boxer

I wanted to let you know about a bill I plan to introduce in coming days. The goal of the Violence Against Children Act of 2002 is to create many more protections for America's children. My colleague, Senator Joseph R. Biden, and I worked for the successful passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1990. We are joining forces again to help protect children.

My Violence Against Children Act includes several provisions, including:
--increasing the federal role in crimes against children by expanding the number of such crimes that can be prosecuted under federal law;
--enhancing penalties for existing federal crimes when committed against children;
--providing federal assistance to state and local law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting crimes against children;
--increasing resources to assist victimized children and their families, including education, prevention, intervention, and treatment; and
--creating AMBER alert systems in every state, similar to the system recently created in California.

We must increase the focus on the vulnerability of our children and take tangible steps to provide enhanced protections and resources if we are to stem the tide of violence against children in our country.

The White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy recently released a report on drug use by students. One section of the report urges that students who test positive for controlled substances be given counseling and treatment rather than simply facing expulsion. I commend the report for focusing on the need for treatment for young people. Put simply, drug treatment works. Though not perfect, it can provide countless people with the tools they need to stay off drugs. That is why I introduced the Treatment on Demand Assistance Act to provide anyone wanting to enter drug treatment with the programs they need. By offering treatment to young people, we can help them avoid a lifetime of addiction.

I am always happy to hear from Californians. If you have questions or comments on any federal issue, I would be happy to hear from you.