It's Called Bait and Switch
Good Morning America today aired a story by reporter Dan Harris about Discovery Institute and its role in the national debate over evolution. More than a month ago ABC News approached Discovery Institute with a request to sit down and interview CSC Director Stephen Meyer. We were hesitant based on previous run-ins with other ABC News crews, namely Nightline. They've done rather poor jobs on reporting about evolution and intelligent design in the recent past. So, we spoke at length with the producers about what sort of story they were doing and what their focus was and what Meyer's role would be.
Harris and his producers made it clear that this was a back to school story, the focus would be on what kids would face when they returned to their science classes in the fall. They said they wanted Discovery to talk about its approach to education policy regarding the teaching of evolution and intelligent design. That was it. That was the basis for the interview.
Just a couple questions in and the producers asked a question about how we felt about getting all our money from the religious right. I somehow doubt that what students will face in science class when they go back to school is a list of Discovery's funders. So an interview that was presented as being about education policy was a lie, a sham, a chance to get someone on camera and then ambush them with other issues. That's called bait and switch, and it isn't journalistically ethical in any way shape or form.
We get questions about our funding all the time. Some are legitimate and are dealt with that way. The New York Times was completely upfront about wanting to know about Discovery's funding. They got answers. Dan Harris was not up front, so he did not.
While Harris did mangle the definition of intelligent design, claiming it calls on a higher power (it doesn't), he did discuss teaching the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution. And while others have mistakenly said that this is what is happening in New Mexico, Kansas and elsewhere he did correctly report what is currently happening in New Mexico. Namely that a local school district, in accordance with state standards, is implementing a policy to allow for teaching both the evidence for Darwin's theory, as well as the scientific criticism of it. They're not teaching intelligent design, and to his credit Harris got that right.