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Friday, December 01, 2006

Inconvenient Truth/Laurie David/Al Gore/Keith Olbermann/Washington Post Team Losing to a Bunch of Teachers?

The Inconvenient Truth/Laurie David/Al Gore/Keith Olbermann/Washington Post v. National Science Teachers Association kerfluffle continues, with the Inconvenient Truth/Laurie David/Al Gore/Keith Olbermann/Washington Post team losing ground fast.

Watch for the drive by media to lose interest in this story any minute now.

Here's the latest (earlier posts in this series are here and here):

According to Science magazine, Laurie David now admits the National Science Teachers Association offered the Gore Gang the opportunity to mail the DVD to NSTA members. What David is mad about is 1) the NSTA didn't offer to provide a letter endorsing the movie (NTSA, according to Science, says it has had a policy since 2001 "prohibiting endorsements of any product or message by an outside organization"), and 2) the NSTA didn't offer to pay the costs for mailing 50,000 DVDs (somewhat understandably, in my view, since it wasn't their idea to mail it in the first place) of David's and Gore's movie.

As Science puts it:
David says NSTA's imprimatur was essential and that buying a mailing list is a nonstarter. 'You don't want to send out a cold letter, and it costs a lot of money,' she says. 'There are a thousand reasons why that wouldn't work.'
The Science article also says:
In a sharply worded op-ed in the 26 November Washington Post, David accused NSTA of rejecting her offer of 50,000 DVDs so as not to offend ExxonMobil, which has given NSTA $6 million over the past decade to help it promote science education. Although the money has paid for such motherhood-and-apple-pie reform efforts as creating a network of science contacts at schools around the country, David told Science that she finds it "shocking" that NSTA would have ties to a company "that has spent millions misinforming the public about global warming."

Not surprisingly, NSTA sees things differently. "We don't do mass distributions for anybody; we don't send our members material that they haven't asked for," says NSTA's executive director, Gerald Wheeler. As for the association's corporate ties, Wheeler freely acknowledges that 16% of NSTA's $23 million a year budget comes from businesses, including 3.7% from the oil and gas industry. "We're working hard to get corporate America engaged in reforming STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] education," he says. "And in no case has anybody asked us to say anything [on their behalf], which we would never agree to do, anyway."

Wheeler says NSTA has no desire to suppress information about global warming. Just last month, for example, NSTA's newsletter for middle school teachers ran a five-page article on the topic and mentioned Gore's movie in the first paragraph. He says NSTA has also offered to post a link to the movie on its Web site and to announce the availability of the DVD in a weekly e-mail letter and a monthly publication. In addition, David could put the DVD directly in teachers' hands by buying NSTA's mailing list, at $130 per 1000 names.
Maybe it's just me, but there are a lot of facts here that don't seem to have made it into the Washington Post's or MSNBC's Countdown coverage.

If the Science magazine article is correct -- unlike the Post and MSNBC, it at least covered both sides -- what we have here is a Hollywood movie producer who is angry because an independent educational organization that doesn't endorse movies declined to make an exception to a five-year-old "no endorsements" policy and endorse hers, and, furthermore, declined to spend what I estimate would have been at the very least $100,000 of its own money mailing the producer's movie to its membership with said endorsement enclosed. When the producer did not get her way, she cried to the Washington Post, which sympathized, and permitted her to vent her frustration, somewhat creatively, on its op-ed pages. And then someone at MSNBC read the op-ed, and Keith Olbermann decided to dumb it down.

Meanwhile, ever competitive, Al Gore has been off spreading misinformation of his own on Wednesday's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno":
Well, one of the producers, Laurie David, said to the science teachers association, 'we've got all these DVDs.' and they declined, and the word that came back was that their corporate board of advisors had some members that objected to it. And you'll have to ask them about it, but ExxonMobil is on their board.
Check out this list of the NSTA board of directors. See anyone from ExxonMobil on it? Me, neither.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:42 AM

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