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The search for the IBWO is quite likely the conservation story of the
century. I heard it
talked about on the street, in public venues. A non-birder mentioned the
story to me in passing--with excitement. I appreciated seeing coverage of
the skepticism--it only heightened the suspense.

This is a compelling story: near-extinction, habitat conservation--and an
opportunity to show how science works! I would have liked to see a little
more of the latter--Kansas could use it--but maybe we'll be ready when the
photos appear. Like the 'sighting', good science can stand up to doubt and
scrutiny.

Tim Barksdale, IBWO search videographer, will speak at UMKC's Royall Hall,
52nd
Street between Holmes and Rockhill, Kansas City, MO Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7
pm., followed by a dart tournament benefit for Big Woods Conservation
Partnership at 75th Street Brewery. Lecture, $5 suggested donation.
Sponsored by Burroughs Audubon and UMKC Environmental Science Program.

Best regards,
Jill DeWitt
Kansas City




----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen Whitworth" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 12:02 AM
Subject: Re: [BIRDCHAT] End of Ivory-billed Controversy - Bizarre!


>     As someone who works in the media (The Telegraph, daily newspaper in
> Alton, Ill.), I wanted to respond to cupla points made in the IBWO
> Controversy discussion.
>     I don't think either of these comments was intended to bash or blame
> the media for how the controversy has played out, but I do think they
> assume a little too much. And I don't want to sound like I'm whining about
> it, because I realize the media is fair game for criticism, much of it
> probably deserved and legitimate. Nevertheless...
>
>     Robert Fisher wrote:
>     "It is time to blame a usual suspect -- "the media." Please note that
> the principal sources for much of the now-ended "Ivory-bill Controversy"
> were newspaper stories. I'm all for a constitutionally-protected free
> press. It must be allowed to do its job (selling newspapers). But the time
> and place for evaluating scientific claims is when they actually are
> published and answered in respected scientific journals. It's a
> frustratingly slow process sometimes. But the end result is more
> reliable."
>
>     My response is that Mr. Fisher seems to be "blaming" the messenger,
> cliche as that sounds. Let's keep in mind that these newspaper stories
> were written for the general public, not specifically for those with a
> special interest in birds. Let's also remember that the announcement by
> Cornell et al about the "rediscovery" of the IBWO was big news all over TV
> and NPR, as well as in the newspapers. Would Mr. Fisher have been happier
> if newspapers had ignored this story because the scientific vetting
> process still was playing out?
>     Let's face it, when somebody with the status of Cornell Lab and Nature
> Conservancy makes a major announcement like this, it's the media's job to
> report that announcement. It's not the job of a daily newspaper to be
> expected to analyze and evaluate all the scientific issues involved in
> time for that evening's deadline.
>     I think Mr. Fisher is actually making this same point when he says
> that scientific claims should be evaluated when they are hashed out in
> "respected" (hmm, guess newspapers get no respect, huh?) scientific
> journals. I agree 100 percent. But if readers and/or birders are jumping
> to conclusions based on breaking newspaper reports, I think the readers
> and birders at least share the blame.
>     I submit that in this matter, the newspapers carried out their
> function pretty much as they should: They reported the initial
> announcement, then they reported the fact that some observers were
> challenging the conclusions of the Cornell team. I don't think it should
> be the job of the newspapers either to take sides in the controversy or
> claim to have definitive answers. Rather, I think it's their job to give
> all sides their fair say, and to put the scientific controversy in
> perspective for the average reader.
>     Let's keep in mind, the percentage of hardcore birders who really got
> into discussing all this is miniscule compared to the overall number of
> general interest readers. I've spoken to many people, including some in my
> own newsroom, whose general reaction to the whole story was, "Who cares?
> It's just a bird." I would guess that's how a significant percentage of
> the general readership feels.
>     As Mr. Fisher correctly points out, those with a true stake and
> interest in the real science of this matter probably should hold off on
> drawing final conclusions until all the scientific publications weigh in.
> But newspapers also must consider the vast majority of readers who, at
> best, have a passing interest in the initial announcement, then might also
> be interested to know that there are skeptics.
>     My basic argument is that in matters such as this, newspapers should
> be viewed as the starting place for the discussion, a format for
> disseminating the "news" of a major announcement by "respected"
> scientists, and not as the final arbiter of purely scientific questions.
> And in that respect, I'd have to say the newspapers did their job pretty
> well, wouldn't you agree? There probably has been more attention paid to a
> single bird species in the last few months than I can ever remember, not
> to mention the corollary issues of conservation and public access that
> have arisen. Certainly, the IBWO has been a hot topic on MOBIRDS, altho
> that might well have happened even without any major announcement in the
> newspapers.
>
>     The other point to which I wanted to respond comes from Jeff Wright,
> who wrote:
>
>     I think the point of Robert Fisher's email was just to say that
> everyone, birder or scientist, has a tendency to jump on whatever
> bandwagon the media pushes.
>
>     Again, I think Mr. Wright is assigning motives to the media that may
> not really be there. I doubt that the vast majority of daily newspapers or
> electronic media outlets were "pushing" any agenda or bandwagon in this
> matter. If the announcement by Cornell Lab had been to the effect that
> their researchers had proved conclusively that the IBWO was extinct, I
> think the media would have duly (not dully, at least I hope not) reported
> their conclusions. Maybe it wouldn't have made as big a splash, because
> the idea of a species "coming back from the dead," so to speak, has much
> more appeal and naturally is going to be played up more prominently.
>     In this case, if there was a "bandwagon," I would say it was being
> "pushed" by the ornithological and conservation communities, both of which
> were eager to promote public interest in their particular areas of
> concern. After the excitement of the initial reports died down, and the
> IBWO faded from the headlines, it clearly was these two communities that
> continued and intensified the discussion of the issues involved. And when
> there are schisms within these communities on issues of at least some
> interest to the general public, the media again is only doing its job when
> it reports on these controversies.
>     OK, don't mean to beat this thing to death. In conclusion, I'd just
> like to pose this question: What harm was done by the media in publicizing
> the initial announcement and the subsequent controversies? Perhaps some in
> the ornithological community had their "feathers" ruffled? Seems like a
> small price to pay when compared to the positive attention that was paid
> to the whole IBWO drama and the raising of the public's awareness on
> environmental and conservation issues.
>     And hey, hasn't it given a lot of us something to talk and speculate
> about for the last few months? I sometimes think we worry too much about
> the answers and the conclusions, when it's really the questions and the
> speculation that make these issues interesting. If we had known on the
> first day the report came out, conclusively and without question, that the
> IBWO definitely was still in existence, would it have been as much fun as
> we've had for the last few months? There's something to be said for a
> little mystery and controversy, in my opinion.
>
> --Steve Whitworth, city editor, The Telegraph, Alton, IL
>
>
>
>
>
>>From: Robert Fisher <[log in to unmask]>
>>Reply-To: Robert Fisher <[log in to unmask]>
>>To: [log in to unmask]
>>Subject: Re: [BIRDCHAT] End of Ivory-billed Controversy - Bizarre!
>>Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2005 11:21:08 -0500
>>
>>Below, FYI, I am copying something I posted to the BIRDCHAT, which has
>>already drawn a lot of replies, some pro, some con and some not
>>understanding my point. Before reading it, please be assured that I am not
>>finding fault with Messrs. Jackson, Prum and Robbins, who wisely did not
>>publish, and who should not be criticised for something they did not do.
>>
>>This whole discussion  has been somewhat bizarre. First, we are told that
>>Jackson, Prum and Robbins are going to publish a paper challenging the
>>conclusion that the bird in a brief, blurry video is an IBWO. As a result,
>>lots of subscribers to this [i.e. to BIRDCHAT] and other birding lists get
>>themselves into a
>>dither, and refutations of the non-paper appear on line before it even
>>gets
>>printed. Then we are told that two of  the authors of the
>>still-unpublished
>>paper, Prum and Robbins,  have heard some Cornell sound recordings and
>>pronounced that not one but two IBWO's really do exist in Arkansas. As a
>>result,  everyone -- or at least nearly everyone --  suddenly seems to be
>>satisfied that IBWO still lives after all.
>>
>>Who are Jackson, Prum and Robbins that they can turn the hopes and
>>emotions
>>of the birding community off and on like a light switch without actually
>>publishing anything?  Has either Prum or Robbins ever heard an
>>Ivory-billed
>>Woodpecker? I doubt it. How is it then that their decree about the sound
>>recordings is given such weight? Meanwhile, what has happened to the value
>>of 16 recent sight observations of a male IBWO in Arkansas?  Have reports
>>that Cornell's sound recordings persuaded Prum and Robbins to pull their
>>unpublished
>>paper given back to the sight observers a credibility that leaks about the
>>paper took away?
>>
>>It is time to blame a usual suspect  -- "the media."  Please note that the
>>principal sources for much of the now-ended "Ivory-bill Controversy" were
>>newspaper stories.  I'm all for a constitutionally-protected free press.
>>It
>>must be allowed to do its job (selling newspapers). But the time and place
>>for evaluating scientific claims is when they actually are published and
>>answered in respected scientific journals. It's a frustratingly slow
>>process
>>sometimes. But the end result is more reliable.
>>
>>Bob Fisher
>>Independence, Missouri
>>[log in to unmask]
>>
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