For willingness to enter into a dialog about the issues we have with their story, NBC gets an A. For constructive, factual arguments in their correspondence... well, let's just say they get less than an A.
NFI Letter to NBC Below:
June 10, 2008
Alexandra Wallace, Vice President, NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plz
New York, NY 10112
Dear Ms. Wallace,
Thank you for your prompt response to our concerns about Anne Thompson’s report on seafood and the oceans.
For clarity, the data distortion I mentioned did not center on whether the half billion pound statistic was accurate. As I mentioned in my original letter, it centered on the fact that it was not put in its proper perspective. And while your suggestion that there has been a significant increase in fishing is accurate, given the available biomass, it is not anywhere near as shocking as Ms. Thompson’s report would have viewers believe.
My accusation of a failure in balance is highlighted by your note that only, “specific practices that scientists say are harming the habitats of the fish we eat” were examined. Misuse of bottom trawling, excessive by-catch and sustained overfishing are things that responsible fisheries work to avoid and stand against. Had the seafood community been included in Ms. Thompson’s package, your viewers would have been made aware of that.
Additionally, as I noted in my first letter, with her example of bluefin in mind, the seafood community has been vocal in calling for a moratorium on bluefin fishing in the Mediterranean because of poor fishery management. This omission leaves the audience without a key fact: Far from encouraging the destruction of the Mediterranean bluefin stock, responsible members of the industry are actively working to preserve it.
I am happy to hear that you are working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on another story. NOAA’s staff and the FishWatch group in particular are important independent resources that we always encourage journalists to work with, and I would hope you would give NOAA and its spokespeople as much attention as you’ve already given the activist community.
Finally, you inadvertently highlighted a glaring example of your staff’s poor sourcing when you wrote, “Oceana explained to Christiana (Anne's producer) that Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian's research is supported and partially funded by The National Fisheries Institute.” This is patently false.
The research Dr. Mozaffarian co-authored that the Time magazine article references as-- "one of the most comprehensive studies to date on the impact of fish consumption on human health" -- was funded by a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health grant. NFI’s Fisheries Scholarship Fund, a non-profit donor-supported fund that contributes to research about seafood and health, did not contribute to this or any other studies authored by Dr. Mozaffarian. Oceana is wrong, and as you can see by this example, is in the business of passing off false information as fact when it serves their purposes.
Thank you for your willingness to engage in a dialog about this matter.
National Fisheries Institute
cc: Brian Williams, Managing Editor NBC Nightly News
Bob Steele, Poynter Institute