Troubled Waters film flap: Scientific or editorial?

In case you missed it, in his blog News Cut, MPR’s Bob Collins presents his latest take on the U’s “Troubled Waters” flap.

The U’s official line has been that it yanked the environmental film to review it for scientific accuracy.

But Collins says that the assertion by the dean of the U’s ag department — that the film was scientifically accurate but unbalanced — reveals that the beef with the film was really editorial (and thus based on opinion or perspective rather than a concern for the facts).

And such editorial influence may have damaged the film’s credibility for good, he writes:

This isn’t independent journalism. It’s not a documentary. If content is changed by those outside the production process, it’s an infomercial and the debate is over which self-interest owns its soul. That’s what often happens when a combination of private and public money — often with its own intent — is used to contract with an organization that may have “skin in the game,” to produce a piece that will end up being shown on public television under the label of journalism or backed by its journalistic credibility. Any time the word “promote” appears in a mission statement for any editorial project process — it does in this one — it disqualifies itself from that classification. (Update: I acknowledge that a documentary is not by definition journalism)

Collins’ take has generated almost three dozen responses as of this writing, and he has waded into the fray. Check it out here.