Following the lead of an ESPNOutdoors.com opinion writer, conservatives have in recent days advanced the outlandish charge that Obama “wants to ban sport fishing.” The ESPNOutdoors.com writer provided no evidence for his claim that a federal strategy “could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing,” and the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force's interim report on coastal and marine planning has proposed nothing of the sort.
Today, ESPNOutdoors.com Executive Editor Steve Bowman acknowledged that “we made several errors in the editing and presentation of this installment. Though our series has included numerous news stories on the topic, this was not one of those -- it was an opinion piece, and should clearly have been labeled as commentary.” Bowman added that “this particular column was not properly balanced and failed to represent contrary points of view.” From Bowman's piece:
ESPNOutdoors.com inadvertently contributed to a flare-up Tuesday when we posted the latest piece in a series of stories on President Barack Obama's newly created Ocean Policy Task Force, a column written by Robert Montgomery, a conservation writer for BASS since 1985. Regrettably, we made several errors in the editing and presentation of this installment. Though our series has included numerous news stories on the topic, this was not one of those -- it was an opinion piece, and should clearly have been labeled as commentary.
And while our series overall has examined several sides of this topic, this particular column was not properly balanced and failed to represent contrary points of view. We have reached out to people on every side of the issue and reported their points of view -- if they chose to respond -- throughout the series, but failed to do so in this specific column.
This series started in October and has included several updates on how the creation of that task force and its actions could impact recreational anglers. ESPNOutdoors.com should have made it clear to all readers that this was part of a larger series, and -- even though this was Montgomery's opinion, and those of the sources quoted in the column -- we should have taken more care to fairly represent opposing arguments.
We do feel it is our duty to cover issues surrounding outdoor sports to the best of our abilities, and given the nature of this task force and the potential impact on all fisherman, this was an appropriate topic to address for our audience. We take seriously the tenets of journalism that require we take an unbiased approach, and when we make mistakes in the presentation of a story or a column, it is our responsibility to admit them.
Any confusion on that part rests entirely on my shoulders as the executive editor of this site.
We have appended the original column to note that it was in fact a commentary, and we will institute more rigorous editing safeguards in order to prevent such issues in the future.