Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Musings: On Muckraking

My time in Seoul is winding down, with a flight out tonight. But I was up early, as usual, and watched the sun rise over the Han River, belly still full of true Korean barbecue, grilled with whole cloves of garlic over hot coals at the table and served with spicy kimchee, green salad and sweet peppers to dip in miso sauce.
The food has been heavy on the veggies, which perhaps at least partly explains why I haven't seen any fat Koreans, even in the very affluent Gangnam district where I'm staying. Is morbid obesity primarily an American phenomenon?

Attending the World Conference of Science Journalists has fed my deepening despair about the future of journalism, left me wondering if it even has one. Nearly all of the science journalism, I learned, is done by freelance writers, and as one noted, it's not feasible to dig into investigative work when you're getting paid by the word.

I heard stories of veteran newspaper journalists losing their jobs as the science sections folded, while others lamented the difficulty of selling science stories, and editors who wanted quick hits, press release rewrites and sensationalism over solid stories.

Connie St. Louis, director of the MA Science Journalism program at City University in London, offered a sobering statistic from a study by the Financial Times: In the U.S., PR people outnumber journalists by a factor of 4.6.

And as news organizations face increasing financial constraints, PR people hold greater away than ever.

She also spoke about the shady side of science, with the recent disclosures that some journals will accept articles for pay, and others require no peer review at all. And even with peer review, she said, there are questions, since prestigious journals like Nature won't share the details of their peer review process with journalists.

Scientists, too, had their complaints, with some telling me of how journalists had taken their studies out of context, misrepresented their work, even completely fabricated interviews, leading to irrevocable fallouts among researchers.

It's a bit of a mess out there in the world of scientific information, and no one, it seems, — not the scientists, not the journalists, not the citizens, not the governments, not the NGOs — is pure.

I spoke about that yesterday as a panelist in a discussion on the role of journalists in promoting tech choice for farmers, sharing how the anti-GMO movement and its deliberate misinformation campaign had washed virtually unchecked over Hawaii, leaving farmers burned and wary and the public confused. It seems decisions about technology are increasingly driven not by science, but politics, resulting in the suppression of certain technology in various countries.

As I noted, it's not for journalists to promote any particular technology, but the concept of choice, while giving farmers a voice to express what they really want.

After the panel discussion I chatted with African journalists about their success in building trust with farmers and scientific researchers, which allowed them to bring the two together. It's a role that journalists haven't traditionally played, but with agricultural extension services often underfunded, or totally absent, in developing nations, information about technology somehow needs to move from research facilities into the fields. And increasingly, journalists are doing that, through radio and television programs that share agricultural news.

As they and other African journalists told me, farmers there are eager for anything that will help boost production, because they aren't food secure, they're hungry, with the crops they grow consumed in just three to six months, leaving them scrambling for the rest of the year.

Their work left me heartened, as did the two-hour online debate I moderated for SciDev.Net on why farmers aren't using ag tech. The page got some 1,500 hits and 482 thoughtful comments from folks around the world who were eager to engage on a thoughtful topic.

I've been critical of the anti-GMO movement not because I believe biotech is the end-all and be-all, but because I'm concerned about the very real ramifications of ideological extremism. Just this week there was another report of a Greenpeace defector — Stephen Tindale, who led the group at the height of its opposition to biotechnology. The Independent reportedhim as saying:

Environmental groups that campaign against genetically modified food are taking a “morally unacceptable” position that puts “ideology” ahead of the needs of the poor. [Tindale] said he had “decided to speak out” because he believed the technology was safe and could help alleviate hunger in the developing world.

“I worry for Greenpeace and the other green groups because they could, by taking such a hard line … be seen to be putting ideology before the need for humanitarian action.”

His remarks were included in the BBC program “Panorama,” which “also uncovered further evidence that some public campaigns being waged by Western NGOs against GM in the Third World are using 'scare tactics' to mobilise opposition to the technology,” according to The Independent, which first broke news of such tactics in Uganda earlier this year.

We certainly saw that same scenario play out in Hawaii, with Center for Food Safety assuming the role that Greenpeace, which claims it's not an ideological organization, has played elsewhere in the world. Sadly, CFS continues to get far too much unquestioning coverage from Hawaii media, whose scrutiny of the GMO debate has been superficial at best.

As Connie St. Louis noted:

I want to think about calling back the muckrakers in our society. As journalists, if we can break stories and show what's really going on, people will respond.

And therein lies the ray of hope that gets me up and at my computer at daybreak, so many mornings.


Anonymous said...

Ms. Joan- Thank you.

Anonymous said...

so o they allow GMO in Korea? Veggies are very healthy or you. Not all Koreans are skinny. Americans are at because they have wheat belly consume too much gluten at salt an sugar not enough water an ont excersise and they eat too much processed food such as ingredients made from gmo grown produce When you cut out these foods from your diet you lose weight.

South Korea bans GMOs they are not allowed there which xplains the thinness of the people in part,so Joan your discussing GMos in Seoul must be met with mixed reviews since they are banned where you are

this is where i got my information if i am wrong please correct me or

Anonymous said...

Wow wow wow. You are so incredibly spot on Joan!

Joan Conrow said...

@8:54. There's no evidence that GMOs cause weight gain and I'm at a conference of journalists so of course they're open to talking about GMOs. In fact I just heard a panel on reporting the issue in Africa, China and India, with the reporters agreeing misinformation is rampant.

Nulani said...

To 8:54,
" As of September 2013, ninety-six GMOs had been approved for food and food additives, including soybean, maize, cotton, canola, potato, alfalfa, sugar beet, and one microorganism."

"As of September 2013, eighty-eight GMO feeds had been approved, including soybean, maize, cotton, canola, and alfalfa."

Anonymous said...

8:54 How do you tell if someone is vegan or gluten-free?
Don't worry they will tell you.

And by the way....the Koreans eat anything and everything.

Anonymous said...

As a former science writer (recently retired), I find your report sobering but spot on.
-Dave Smith

Anonymous said...

Did you know that the Korean food that you ate was sprayed upon by human feces???

That's how they grow things over there is Korea.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful writing Joan. What scares me the most is the photo of the pollution in Korea. I'm wondering if you had any problems with the atmosphere there? We have that same kind of picture here, when the vog settles down. Thankfully, we have the trade winds to blow them away, but we should be more concerned about nation-wide pollution and the use of fossil fuels. Of course you need manufacturing for the life style we expect, especially for the ever increasing population. That is why GMO foods are becoming a necessity to be able to feed everyone. Yes, they are not the most nutritious foods, but they are the most affordable. Will we be just a species that will evolve into being able to live in this polluted live style, or will we all try to live healthier and start caring for the environment. The planet is changing through global warming, volcanos are erupting all over the world, earth quakes are increasing, storms are stronger, climates are becoming harder to adjust to (too hot...too cold). Yes, we have a lot to worry about, so let's do what we can to "positively" move our mindset into becoming more helpful than negative and argumentative.

Anonymous said...

The Oahu sewage treatment plant also produces fertilizer out of human waste. The pellets produced are used somewhere, probably on non edible plants like grasses, but who knows?? That's the nature of the beast (recycling), because what do we do with what we produce as humans (trash and waste).

Anonymous said...

Gluten does not cause weight gain. It is a protien. Carbohydrates and excess quantities of food cause weight gain. Human beings and mammals have been consuming glutens for hundreds of thousands of years. Gluten free food is excessively processed. I find the whole gluten dietary scare to be absurd and junk science. Yes, there may be a few allergiics, but even then I would expect them in to primarily of Eskimo, Inuit, or Polynesian/ Micronesian.,Yet I have never heard a Hawaiian complain about his gluten intake.

Dawson said...

10:07 AM wrote:
"Did you know that the Korean food that you ate was sprayed upon by human feces???

That's how they grow things over there is Korea."

Did you know that your joke is a virtual clone (with cleaner language) of a racist joke against Japanese that was common in World War II?

Did you know that the WWII joke was itself a reworking of a racist joke against Chinese that was common in the railroad camps of 19th century California?


No matter, it likely wouldn't have stopped you anyway. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Does Korea have a Meth problem like Kauai and the state of Hawaii?

Maybe the state should toughen up and give 20 years to life sentences to these drug terrorists that help support terrorism.

I believe people and families that sell, cook, and deal Meth should get the death penalty because that's what they are killing adults and kids on Kauai. They are also destroying families and supporting home grown and overseas terrorism.

Too bad it won't be on any voting ballot or discussion this decade because these Meth dealers are related to our politicians and dirty cops (HPD Major), prison guards (Halawa), firefighters (Kauai fishing dept), life guards ( Some Kauai life guards look like tweakers), and all their fricking greedy drug dealing families on Kauai that want money, power, and respect.

Meth's the #1 Killer on Kauai and the state of Hawaii!!!! not GMO.

Anonymous said...

Your education fails you. I was stationed in Korea and saw first hand the spraying of human feces.

When you are down range in Korea (in the field), the shit trucks spray all around you in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Guess what you smell when you are eating breakfast, lunch and dinner-Shit.

It's not a JOKE and I am definitely not racist. I love Korean food and I still have friends that were KATUSA's ( Korean augmente to the United States of America). I studied Korean language (Hangul) and Korean martial arts (Hapiko and Tar Kwon Do).

So the joke is on you, you are not as intelligent as you seem to be. But it is what it is.

Maybe one day you will visit Korea. They have Great food and humble people.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you know that kimchee was declared the next generation probiotics. Keeps you clean and thin. You plump fellas should run out and get some.

Anonymous said...

I have to eat kimchee and Taekuan early evening so when I go sleep, I fart all night so when I work the next day I will be flatuent free.

That stuff is so smelly and yet very delicious. But there's nothing like catching the kimchee bus in Korea. It's a different kind of smell.

Anonymous said...

@ June 11, 2015 at 2:50 PM who said “Yes, they (GE foods) are not the most nutritious foods, but they are the most affordable.”

How so? All the science I’ve read says that they are exactly as nutritious as the organic originals.

@June 11, 2015 at 4:10 PM who said “Yes, there may be a few allergics, but even then I would expect them in to primarily of Eskimo, Inuit, or Polynesian/ Micronesian."

A good (Caucasian) friend of mine suffered for years before a doctor finally determined that she is gluten intolerant. It appears that many MD’s still are not familiar with the symptoms and fail to correctly diagnose the problem. Once she stopped eating gluten she was fine.

Anonymous said...

MERS in South Korea is a biological agent that is being tested as a weapon.

Saudi labs have been testing Chem/Bio weapons of mass destruction for years. All of the 9-11 high jackers were from Saudi. The Oil barons across the world and America wanted cheap oil to rise.

Now they will have studies for MERS or have a cure that will cost Billions upon Billions.

It's like the health care and gold prices. All are rigged for profits. RX drugs and copayments have skyrocketed like oil, gas and inflation on everything else.

The banks, insurance, drug companies, and so on relish the turmoil and reap the greedy rewards.

Will the FEDS investigate this like the housing market scam, the gold price fix, Enron and the faux non profits that pays their CEO millions?

Anonymous said...

Is it just my own brain?
Or are the comments on this particular Blog whackadoo?

Anonymous said...

Everything seems to be all about money. Money = Power. The big drug companies are making a lot of money. They can not have someone develop a cure(any cure) from a tomato plant that would be a lot cheaper on the market. They would lose mega bucks when people do not use their drugs. They are trying to stop this with the anti-GMO movement. If they can stop the research they win, we pay more for our prescription and make them richer. What is 1% of even 4% of a 100 billion dollars. That is what they give to the anti-GMO groupies to maintain their profits. I would do the same thing too if I were them. I would scare the shit of the people to not eat any GMO related goods. I would flood the market with all kinds of propoganda to promote this scare. Wait a minute now. Is this what is happening to Hawaii? Are we being used again. History does repeat itself.

Anonymous said...

Eating too much organic wheat products will make you fat too!

Anonymous said...

Some drug and GMO companies are owned by the same drug and GMO companies.

It's like all triple tax schemes ie: soda tax ( recycle tax, sales tax, deposit tax), county of Kauai solid waste tax( property tax on solid waste and triple the trash pick up) or how about the ongoing Mayor's family and friends robbing the tax paying citizens by yearly consultants (friends and family and campaign donors) getting paid several times over for stupid proposals and re proposals. How about Omindari and his EBay triple tax ( tax you on posting an item(s), taxes you when the person wins and pays for a bid, then taxes you for shipping (you can get rid of the shipping tax by just going through US postal). The drug and GMO companies are in bed with the insurance companies and the drug companies colluding to rise meds and copayments 10X or even more than a 100X its original cost. Why is that? We'll have you all figured out the oil, housing market, reverse mortgage, and gold and silver scams yet?

The FEDS should go after drug companies and insurance companies. This is the NEW conspiring and colluding way to drive up the price so that I. The end the tax payers will suffer and foot the bill. The new health care insurance program has created monopolies and price fixing in insurance payments, copaymentts and the insane rise in cost of prescription pills.

Ask your friends and families and they will tell you that insurance has gone up and a lot of their RX has gone up as well as insurances won't pay for maintenance meds.

It's the biggest scam since the real estate and bank scams and also the Madoff scam.

Everyone will suffer because the rise in cost is bad as over inflated price fixing of gas, oil, and housing on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, 7:10, there is a lot wrong with using the capitalist model for healthcare instead of making it a basic human right. That's the country we live in. Most advance countries abandoned the for profit healthcare model decades ago. To even get a very basic, and defective, universal healthcare system in place here resulted in more right wingers in office and continuing attempts to dismantle the ACA. We don't have the votes to improve the situation, so rant on. Your rants aren't improving anything.

To link modern ag biotech with a national failure to support basic medical care for all is ridiculous. Scientists are working in universities, small companies and big corporations throughout the world to improve production, improve nutrition, and deal with climate change. One simple effort is to improve water resistance in rice production so that farmers can flood their fields to kill pests, yet have the rice survive. Get out of the echo chamber and read up on what is going and what is possible - if people stop freaking over chemtrails, Helm15, and modern science.

Anonymous said...

Modern science and good journalism are up against corporations and their political puppets in trying to disseminate the truth about climate change. Meanwhile, no trades again and rainfall is less than half the normal amount. Realtors are happy because the tourists they sell to are blown away by the beautiful mountain views and smooth ocean. How's a little ahi with your mercury?

Anonymous said...

10:23 What? The good ol' USA is the country of choice for ALL medical, especially by the bigwigs from foreign countries. The Docs deserve all of the income they can get. What are you gonna do if you get the report that the abyss is your next stop? The deep dark look into the space when you hear y'all got the Cancer? You gonna call Hooser? Nope, you will get on your f"ckin' knees and pray to God. And maybe a prayer or two for your Doc.You go to God or the Docs.
Free Med care don't work. We all must pay for we get.
I say, if you can afford your Doc, you gitchur Doc. All you free mother-f^ckin' douchbags that expect free Med Care should go down to the County and ask for a free bag of potato chips. Med Care costs. The Docs are good. It is the free-loaders that make us all suffer. Get f*in' job and shut the f'ck up.

Anonymous said...

Ray of Hope and Break of day. I agree you do a great deal for the island.
But, some people at the break of day are usurped into gratitude and getting to work.
Journalists and their ilk are responsible for the Kardashians and the attention given to Bruce Jenner. What a journalistic world when most of the writers, write about a big Okole and a small Dick. And we the readers are subject to the drivel. Until journalists come up to the challenge, they are but flicks of dry skin.
Of course, the journalista types, such as yourself are exempt from this comment.
Your words on TVRs, Da Hoos, Jackpot Bynum and the Anti-Agriculture -I'm a rich NS Farmer have enlightened many.
Gadzooks Batman, did I see Da Hoos with a bunch of Sviss a couple of days ago? I think so, and his nose was so imbedded in the tight Swiss cheeks that he will breathe Chocolate for weeks. Of course, dem da'r Sviss don't do any Money laundering or Gun Sales at all. They are organic and cool. And you sure don't want them in your foxhole.
Oh God, choke me with Da Hoos ol' coke spoon and pad my wallet with his best friend, Jumbo Tim Bynmum's 300K that that so smoothly Da Hoos helped him- go took from the County. Tim and Da Hoos, a pair you can really rely on.
Why the f*ck do I even write this Sh"t? Da Hoos will be re-elected and/or make the major bucks as a Shill for the "I know better than you" crowd.
Kauai the island where your politicians take, take and take.. and we do take it. The limp big, soft ricecooker hard-on, right up the left-over soul of whatever is left of the respect for Government's integrity that might still live in us.
And yet we still gots Mel and much potential. So much power and potential. Another limp wrist. All talk and total Baboozz....C'mon Mel, get with it. Do for the people, instead of TO the people.

Anonymous said...

Rants did its purpose. It sparked conversation and also made your so called righteous carcass comment on here. So before you start complaining that nothing can be done, you must realize everything starts somewhere.

First you have to identify the problems then find solutions. It's basic problem solving techniques.

Anonymous said...

Mike Fish, ESPN Senior Writer
FBI and IRS officials are investigating Patricia Driscoll, former girlfriend of NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, over allegations she has mishandled money as executive director of the multimillion-dollar Armed Forces Foundation, three sources told Outside the Lines.

When I wrote about nonprofits and the likes of KFB and KIUC fleecing the public in the name of greed, people were saying yeah right. I also mentioned to others the thousands of corrupt not for profits were losing funding and being investigated by the department of Justice, people didn't believe.

Well maybe now KIUC will be investigated like what is happening with all those crooked nonprofits.

The FEDS should also investigate the no bid constructions unions on Kauai and all the faux consultants fees in the millions that the Mayor and his friends and family stole like their gas theft ring.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm nearly certain that the NASCAR thing signals the imminent demise of KIUC. Pardon the typos, my eyes are rolling.

Anonymous said...

Your queef is pardoned with a cigar.