Award-Winning Journalist Scores Media for Exaggerating Environmental Risk

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Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Jon Franklin has spoken out to condemn the scare tactics practiced by today's journalists. In a pulls-no-punches lead story in the latest issue of Priorities, the quarterly magazine of the American Council on Science and Health, Franklin exposes what he terms the "Poisons of the Mind"-those "lies, illusions and poison paranoias" that so often grip our society." ACSH President Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan has remarked: "Jon Franklin's panoramic essay is therapy for technophobes and a treat for skeptics."

"What we are seeing," Jon Franklin says, "in the press and in our society, is nothing less than the deconstruction of the Enlightenment and its principle institution, which is science."

In "Poisons of the Mind" Franklin exposes and indicts the extremists and alarmists of both the right and the left-the self-styled Cassandras who "don't agree on much, but...are unanimous in their judgment of science and scientists." He tells of his adventures covering the science beat for the Baltimore Sun; of finding-to his chagrin-that "the first thing you know I was not covering science anymore, or even mental illness. I was covering craziness, which is quite a different thing..."

Franklin reminds us of the doomsayers who whisper, "They have poisoned the water, you know... They have poisoned the apples our children eat, even the very milk they drink." But who, he asks, are the mysterious "they" of whom the scaremongers warn? "It's...the scientists, the technologists...the Dr. Frankensteins, and the transnational corporations they work for."

Today, according to Franklin, we "are at the dawn of what some call the postmodern and others are beginning to think of as the neo-Medieval [age]-and poisons are back in the news."

In addition to his two Pulitzer Prizes (Feature Writing, 1979; Explanatory Journalism, 1985), Jon Franklin has also won the American Chemical Society's Grady Medal for science writing (1975), the Helen Carringer Award of the Association for Mental Health (1984), and a Penney-Missouri Special Journalism Award (1985). He is the founder and moderator of an Internet e-mail writing workshop and is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon.

"Poisons of the Mind" was originally presented as the opening session address at the 1996 annual meeting of the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) and is reprinted in Priorities with the kind permission of ASAS.