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According to its Web site, the Society of Environmental Journalists "is not a public relations or an environmental advocacy organization," and you can't even be a member if you or your employer lobby or do PR work on environmental issues. (I was a member for a year and recall how careful they are about that.) So I was unpleasantly surprised to read Katie Coleman's gripe about some sessions of the group's last two conferences. She's at Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism and posted on the conference blog.
She recalled a panel held last year on climate change:
"One of the panelists was a former Bush advisor; he was obviously intelligent, articulate, and motivated by forces other than those that inspire most SEJ members. On a subject on which we all most decidedly agree, his candor in representing the 'other' viewpoint was what made the panel interesting, informative, and unique. But somewhat unfortunately, what sticks out most in my mind from this event was the embarrassing behavior of some of our fellow SEJ members and journalists.
"There were those who, instead of seeing the session as an opportunity to learn from our invited guests, decided to use it as an opportunity to inflict their own viewpoints on the panel and its attendees through the mediums of shouting, interrupting, and jeering."
She observed a similar problem this year: "In this, our first day of 'real' conferencing, I’ve already experienced this rude phenomenon twice: once at this morning’s plenary session and again in the concurrent session on nuclear power. Both of these events presented intelligent, articulate panelists representing the views of real people in the real world outside of these conference walls. We may not all agree with those views, but, as journalists and as professionals, it is our job to at least listen to them."
In her shoes I might have used a stronger word than "rude," although it still would have had a "u" in it.