Seriously… what is wrong with Time Magazine?

Yesterday at 9:04 am we reached out to Time Magazine reporter Alice Park, noting that there were no voices in her Environmental Working Group (EWG) mercury story presenting anything other than an EWG narrative ripped straight from the group’s press release. We followed up with two more emails illustrating how independent science stands in stark contrast to EWG’s recommendations.

Approximately 8 hours later Park added these 15 words to her 700 word story, noting that the National Fisheries Institute disagreed with the conclusions in the report calling it a “slickly packaged marketing piece designed to drive traffic to its mercury calculator; promotional click bait.” While she chose those 15 we sent her 760 worth of detailed information.

Ms. Park and Time Magazine appear to have ignored the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics admonition to “respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness,” and when they did respond they simply added a line about the National Fisheries Institute’s opposition to EWG’s work. This is tantamount to implementing a strategy of ignore the journalistic failures and they will go away. Not dissimilar to the ignore facts and they will go away strategy apparently already employed in the writing of the Time article.

Since Ms. Park and Time Magazine refuse to address the substantive points we have raised in numerous contacts with them we will endeavor to correct the record here:
Time Magazine’s chosen headline is “Canned Tuna Is Too High In Mercury for Pregnant Women: Health Group.”

For starters, the EWG work did not test canned tuna for mercury… at all. Furthermore, nowhere does Ms. Park mention that the FDA’s most recent study runs completely counter to this assertion.

In June 2014, the FDA released “The FDA Quantitative Assessment of the Net Effects on Fetal Neurodevelopment from Eating Commercial Fish”. Regarding tuna, the FDA’s most conservative estimates state (on page 111) that pregnant women can eat 56 ounces of canned albacore and 164 ounces of canned light tuna a week, before the risks begin to approach a level that might outweigh the benefits.

Also unreported is the fact EWG’s work is not peer-reviewed, published science and reams of just such independent research went into crafting the FDA’s Net Effects Report, which stands in direct contrast to EWG’s conclusions.

What’s more EWG’s conclusions, that Time reports on without challenging, are based on studies the group admits look at mercury in a vacuum. No one with any background in nutrition science would accept that. Certainly not FDA and not USDA either. EWG’s own report even points to the USDA Dietary Guidelines as the gold standard—those guidelines contradict EWG’s conclusions as well saying, “benefits of consuming seafood far outweigh the risks, even for pregnant women.”

The problems with EWG’s agenda-driven promotional piece are numerous, but to report on it without researching the claims made or challenging them at all highlights a problem within Time Magazine. Failure to simply address both sides of any one issue or challenge claims made in a press release exposes bush-league journalism that is far from the standard most readers expect from Time magazine.