Independent -- or subsidized -- journalism?


"An Industry Funded Education" in the Jan. 12, 2013, issue should have been called, "An Industry Funded Article." We're informed that the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University -- bankrolled by a "self-proclaimed 'environmentalist who hates the environmental movement' " -- gets big funding from the extractive industry but faithfully maintains scientific objectivity. So what are the practical results of the millions of dollars of investments into research at Warner? That Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, et al, get to claim that they are busily funding "environmental studies"?

I was taken aback until I read the editor's note that the author, Joshua Zaffos, "has taught journalism at CSU and will be teaching a communications course at Warner College this coming spring." You're scaring me!  This is an issue with a lot of advertising and slightly questionable content.

Charlie Paterson
Colorado Springs, Colorado

HCN responds

We understand why readers might think that Joshua Zaffos had a possible conflict of interest while reporting this story. Here's why we decided to run it: Zaffos has been a contributor to High Country News for more than 10 years. Having worked with him on dozens of stories, we trust his integrity and judgment. CSU's journalism school is separate from the Warner College and its industry money, and he had only taught at that school for a few months when he received this reporting assignment. When he was offered a job teaching this spring at Warner, he had nearly finished reporting. He accepted the job only after speaking with us at length, and the offer did not influence his work in any way. We are confident in Zaffos' conclusions and stand by his reporting.

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