Responding to InsideClimate’s Slanted Coverage

In August, we became aware that an article about our case was forthcoming in the environmental advocacy publication InsideClimate News. Since Nicholas Kusnetz, the InsideClimate reporter writing the story, had not reached out to us, we wrote to him proactively. We pointed out that the outlet has close financial ties with Greenpeace and its allies, and asked him in good faith how his publication could possibly engage in objective reporting on this matter when its top editor and publisher, David Sassoon, has been a paid consultant with Greenpeace, a fact reported in a variety of publications.

Here’s part of what we wrote:

First, is it true that your boss and publisher, David Sassoon, has been a paid consultant on policy and public relations to Greenpeace? How much was he paid by Greenpeace and is he still operating his professional consulting firm for environmental NGOs?   

Also, a review of your reportage shows an extensive list of articles casting various activist campaigns in a highly favorable light, particularly when they are aiming at natural resources companies. The same could be said of InsideClimate as a whole. In light of that tilted perspective, how can we be assured that your reporting on Resolute will be objective and even handed?

A number of outlets have also raised questions about the objectivity of InsideClimate’s reporting, given the fact that they share a number of donors with activist groups like Greenpeace. On the funding page of their website, InsideClimate lists Greenpeace donors Ford Foundation, Grantham Foundation, Park Foundation, and Rockefeller Brother’s Fund. The Ford Foundation has even publicly repeated Greenpeace’s flawed talking points regarding companies that attempt to stand up to attacks from environmental activists.

Kusnetz offered no substantive response to our inquiry regarding its obvious conflict of interest. Yet the resulting article, full of skewed and selective sourcing and notable omissions, speaks for itself on that score.

Kusnetz writes, for instance, that “[t]here's some disagreement on whether Resolute's logging practices stand out from its peers—many environmentalists say they do, but some people familiar with its work dismiss the claim.” That is the sum total of time and detail Kusnetz lends to scrutinizing Greenpeace’s misleading allegations. Some say X, others Y. Readers aren’t offered evidence for the competing claims — for instance that Resolute has been multiply awarded as a global leader in sustainability — or even told who is making them so they can assess their relative credibility.

Yet elsewhere Kusnetz gives corporate consultant Michael Marx many words to criticize Resolute, while noting only that Marx “works with several of the named groups” in the lawsuit. Kusnetz won’t tell us which groups, or disclose the nature of Marx’s financial relationship with them, but lets him claim Resolute’s suit is aimed at “taking away” Greenpeace’s ability to employ its strong-arm tactics, which Marx says have become “the real driver in the social responsibility movement.”

Among the acts of “social responsibility” Marx credits to Greenpeace are its “work against genetically modified crops” and a “campaign on sustainable fishing.” What both he and Kusnetz leave out are that the fishing methods favored for years by Greenpeace have recently been found by independent researchers at the University of California, Merced, to have a far worse carbon footprint than the methods they want outlawed, meaning companies who took their advice could have ended up making the environment worse, not better. Even more glaringly, Greenpeace’s destructive attacks on golden rice, and the indigenous farmers who grow it to feed malnourished populations, have been decried in a public letter by 100+ Nobel Laureates as contributing to “blindness and death in children in the developing world.” One Nobel winning physiologist told The Washington Post that Greenpeace’s campaign is “damaging and is anti-science,” a “way to scare people” and “raise money for their cause.” Kusnetz euphemizes all of this as Greenpeace’s “work against genetically modified crops.”

In our own case, Kusnetz’s piece ignores a similar outcry from First Nations leaders and thousands of citizens in both Quebec and Ontario, the Canadian jurisdictions in which Resolute operates, who have expressed concern and condemnation of Greenpeace’s misinformation campaign. Leading trade unions representing workers in the boreal region have also repeatedly denounced the economic damage and threats to jobs caused by Greenpeace’s misleading attacks and unwillingness to engage with their communities. We made Kusnetz aware of this, but he chose to ignore it.

Kusnetz also quotes numerous sources to support Greenpeace’s flawed defense that our use of racketeering laws to hold their actions accountable is an attack on free speech, but fails to mention Greenpeace’s hypocrisy on the issue, which we’ve highlighted repeatedly. As Bloomberg Businessweek reporter Paul Barrett pointed out, when Greenpeace supports RICO actions against other companies, it takes “a narrower view of protected expression.”

The distorted, one-sided view of the case and its merits on offer from InsideClimate News, and the basic failure to disclose, let alone justify, their financial conflict of interest with Greenpeace, speak volumes about the organization and its priorities. Readers would be right to view this piece from InsideClimate News with the utmost skepticism and scrutiny.