U responds to Troubled Waters controversy

The University of Minnesota officials today responded to the suggestion that a documentary film about the Mississippi River was pulled from production because it may have upset agricultural interests.

Today, Dr. Susan Weller, the director of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History issued this press release:

“In 2008, the University of Minnesota (Bell Museum of Natural History) received a legislative appropriation, and subsequent additional private funding, to develop an educational documentary on the waters of Minnesota, designed to promote watershed understanding and citizen action in protecting, restoring and conserving water resources.

“Our standard procedure at the Bell Museum is that our exhibits and educational products have at least one researcher who oversees the project’s scientific integrity from inception to completion. Unfortunately, this procedure was not followed by the Bell Media unit for production of the documentary, ‘Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story.’ As Director of the Bell Museum, I am responsible for ensuring these standards are followed, and I regret our error in this case.

“Recently, this documentary was previewed by a number of University officials and faculty. In hindsight, this review should have occurred much earlier. As a result of input received from these viewers, I have postponed the premiere of the film at the Bell Museum. I have requested a small group of qualified faculty review the film. These faculty will advise me on whether the documentary as edited meets the specifications of the legislative appropriation to the University, and is scientifically accurate, objective and balanced in its presentation.

“The overall purpose of the review is to assure that the University meets its responsibilities under the legislation to provide the best quality product, one that meets the expectations contained in the legislation and provides high-quality educational material for viewers. No outside interests, as erroneously reported by some news sources, have been involved in this internal decision-making process.

“The Bell Museum of Natural History looks forward to hosting the premiere of the film when this process is concluded. I ask for your understanding and patience as we produce a film that meets our high standards of excellence as a public portal of University research and education on environmental issues.”

Update 5:03 p.m. — Molly Priesmeyer, who’s been out front on the story, has an update at Twin Cities Daily Planet that says the responsibility for meeting the conditions of the appropriation toward the film rests with the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.