When the paper of record for Western Washington needs to sift through the complex circumstances of a natural disaster, where it out-source for wisdom? Why, an environmental extremist, of course.

As dangerous recovery efforts continue in the wake of the tragic Oso landslide, the Seattle Times has begun to weave a narrative about what may have caused the disaster that includes the insights of a lone “expert” who points to logging being a factor, one Paul Kennard.

The encyclopedic mind of Washington Policy Center expert and author of Eco-Fads, Todd Myers, ingested the Times’ story (judging by the papers’ plummeting circulation, yours was not) and choked on the reporters’ decision to use Kennard, a self-outed eco-zealot, as a legitimate source.

From Myers’ excellent article on the WPC website:

…Kennard has a long history of extreme and unscientific attacks on anyone he disagrees with.

Two examples stand out.

First, after the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture was firebombed in 2001, Kennard wrote letters to the editor to both The Seattle Times and Seattle P-I calling the firebombers “eco-patriots.” He wrote:

…I do not condone the burning of libraries (as was reported in the story). However, in a general sense, a strong argument can be made that those who unleash untested genetic engineering products into the natural world for short-term commercial gain are the real eco-terrorists. By extension, those opposed to such risky business are actually eco-patriots.

Setting aside his unscientific claims about “genetic engineering,” he praises those who firebombed the building as “eco-patriots,” limiting his concern to the burning of “libraries.” He also calls scientists working on research he doesn’t like, “terrorists.”

Myers goes on to note that a shared gripe among citizens is the coarsening of political discourse, a complaint the Seattle Times itself has editorialized about. It’s a very real concern to see another case of the traditional media being a willing vehicle for a narrow-minded activist agenda.

In theory, the media’s first order of business is to inform the public; in cases of tragedy that function is even more important. We rely on journalists to sort through a slurry of spin, emotion and real facts. It is irresponsible for the Seattle Times to give such an extreme voice any standing with the public, particularly in a conversation that has real downrange policy implications.

In this case, and so many others, the Times is falling down on the job and doing a disservice to the public.


[featured image: Gov. Inslee Flickr]