Reporters and USDA-Wildlife Services
A recent article by Tom Knudson entitled ”Davis cuts ties with Wildlife Services over coyote killings” in the The Sacramento Bee 7/19-2012 Page 1A exemplifies a number of weaknesses in media reporting about the USDA-Wildlife Services. Some of these problems are understandable in that Wildlife Services didn’t respond to the reporters request for an interview. But one would have to ask “What good would it have done?” I think this way because of the lopsided and somewhat silly information contained in his article.
What the Reporter Did Right
Mr. Knudson did properly report the Davis City Council’s anger over Wildlife Services killing of some coyotes. He also, I assume, correctly and accurately reported comments from interested parties. I believe this should be acknowledged.
What the Reporter Did Wrong
Where Mr. Knudson failed was his neglect of presenting opposing views to counterbalance the litany of opinions against the actions of Wildlife Services (WS). Why he didn’t take the time to do a simple Google Search (one assumes reporters know how to do this) and find someone who doesn’t cry every time a coyote dies is simply perplexing and suggests that he has a bias (see below)
To be clear, I don’t believe objective reporting is really possible unless the news is just descriptive. But since reporting is also evaluative, reporters should endeavor to either explain their bias or find someone who can articulate the opposing view.
Problem #1. The Council’s “Ignorance”
I had to smile upon reading about the outrage of the Council members when they learned that Wildlife Services killed animals. Is that like the shock when one learns that a drunk driver just pulled away from a bar? Why the reporter didn’t ask “Why didn’t the Council know? is unknown.
Problem #2. Bald Bias
I quote Mr. Knudson ”Earlier this year, a series of articles in The Bee reported the agency’s predator control activities across the West are often excessive, indiscriminate, out of sync with science and carried out with little or no public input.”
Problem #3. Public Opinion
Problem #4. Counterfactuals
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest book is the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition. He can be contacted at stephenvantassel at Hotmail dot com.
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