CBS: A Question of Sourcing

It’s not quite the 2004 forged document scandal that ended Dan Rather’s storied career at CBS but it does highlight an important issue about sourcing that many in the media overlook.

This CBS story about over-fishing being the culprit for an apparent jellyfish invasion on the East Coast has some quintessential sourcing issues that warrant examination. But let me start by saying I have no clue what’s causing said jellyfish invasion-is over-fishing a factor? I simply don’t know. But what I do know is that the main expert cited in the story has an obvious agenda and was chosen in lieu of many easily accessible independent experts.

For starters hats off to CBS for citing an apparently independent “teen” (on the beach) and an apparently equally independent “lifeguard” to start off the story. But then they veer off course by citing unnamed “experts” who suggest the “jellyfish explosion is of global concern.” And when they do actually name an expert it’s a “marine scientist” from Oceana, an environmental activist organization, who concludes that the plague of jellyfish is caused, in part, by “over-fishing.”

Maybe it is– I don’t know, I am not a marine biologist. But Oceana’s stated goal is (as mentioned in the story) “protecting the world’s oceans.” From whom are they protecting them? -well, that’d be man. So, it would be reasonable to assume that they would suggest man was responsible in some way for the onslaught of jellyfish.

CBS did not use experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is an independent federal agency, “focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere.” Nor did they use any of the independent ocean researchers at universities that dot the East Coast and have myriad programs devoted to the health of the oceans.

Environmental activists are not independent “experts” and they should not be treated as such.