It’s like seeing a Heart Association 10k race sponsored by a tobacco company.
Two big coal companies are sponsoring the October conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists
The registration page lists the sponsors - the premier two are:
American Electric Power
The Society of Environmental Journalists is a very active organization offering wonderful workshops, mentoring, classes and serious support for journalists covering all things environmental. Well maybe not all things. They seem to get into bed easily.
The non-profit Society has a multimillion dollar yearly budget — a pretty big organization for a membership of just 1400. From their non-profit filings we see that much of their revenue comes from renting out their mailing list. These journalists are prime targets for energy companies wanting to ‘deliver information’ - and explains why coal companies would want to cozy up.
When it comes to the environment, these two companies have a long, abysmal and controversial record. A quick Google search reveals why they may want to ingratiate themselves to environmental journalists:
American Electric Power is the largest electricity generating utility in the United States and the 35th-top air polluter — emitting roughly 88 million pounds of toxic chemicals that will combine to make acid rain. American Electric Power was in court starting in 1999 and just recently agreed to install $4.6 billion in pollution-control measures at 16 existing plants and pay $75 million in penalties.
Virginia based Dominion Power controversially worked closely with the state corporation commission to receive state legislation that
gave Virginia’s utilities, including Dominion Virginia Power, “billions of dollars in guaranteed profits to build coal and nuclear plants … before spending anything on energy conservation”
The Society of Environmental Journalists might want to examine themselves first.
======== SEJ’s Thoughtful Response =============
As executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, I’d like to provide some accurate information and clear up your misperception on the nature of the relationship between SEJ and Virginia Tech’s list of supporting sponsors for our Roanoke conference October 15 - 19.
By long standing policy of the SEJ
board, SEJ does not accept gifts or grants from non-media corporations, government agencies or environmental advocacy groups. Our organization is funded by foundation grants, university sponsorship of the annual conference, gifts from individuals, and earned income (including dues, subscriptions, mail list rental, conference registration, exhibition fees and advertisements in SEJ publications).
Virginia Tech invited us to bring our 2008 conference to their state and they pledged $160,000 to help underwrite direct expenses of the meeting (catering, buses, printing, and so on). SEJ has raised another $200,000 from the above noted revenues to pay the balance of personnel and nonpersonnel costs of the meeting.
Virginia Tech is very proud to be hosting and sponsoring SEJ this year. Dominion Power and American Electric Power are listed as “Premier Sponsors” for Virginia Tech because they are the most generous contributors among the companies, agencies and groups that are donating funds to Virginia Tech to help them fulfill their long-standing pledge to SEJ. If you look more closely at SEJ’s Web site at http://www.sej.org/confer/index1.htm, you will see this relationship explained, as well as Virginia Tech’s list of other, including the City of Roanoke, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Smithfield Foods and Rainwater Management Solutions, among others. SEJ’
s list of supporters this year includes The Roanoke Times, Animal Planet and Planet Green, the Hewlett Foundation, Turner Foundaion and Keith Campbel Foundation among others. Many groups, businesses, industry trade associations, government agencies, publishers and others have written checks to SEJ in exchange for exhibit space at the conference and ads in the program booklet.
Dominion Power, American Electric Power and other Virginia Tech sponsors have no direct relationship with SEJ. Employees of these companies have absolutely no role in agenda planning for the conference. All SEJ programs are designed and led by member-volunteers, in this case conf. co-chairs Ken Ward Jr., environment reporter for the Charleston Gazette and Bill Kovarik, journalism professor forRadford University. SEJ members choose all conference speakers and set all itineraries for reporting tours.
One final correction: SEJ expenses in 2007 came to $963,150 (audited figures). We rarely have more than four or five months operating funds in the bank at any given time. I wish we could be a multimillion dollar group, as we have a very important mission! ”To advance public understanding of environmental issues by improving the quality accuracy and visibility of environmental news reporting.” Indeed, I’ll have to get back to work on that=2
0goal! But don’t hesitate to contact me for fact checking purposes in the future! Accuracy is important to SEJ also.
By the way, there’s still time to register for the conference and all are welcome. See www.sej.org for details.
Thanks. Beth Parke, Executive Director, Society of Environmental Journalists
Thank you so much Beth Parke, I do feel like you have presented your case along with some good lessons in journalism. An improved analogy might be that of a track meet being held in a stadium that shows tobacco advertising. It may not be connected to the team, but they have to run below the sign. I am confident that when a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists covers the coal industry, they will work hard to ignore any imprints of the sign of coal. - RP