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Just off a phone call with Peter Fairley, Vice President for Membership of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ).
As Gore came under pressure to explain the nine significant errors in An Inconvenient Truth, the SEJ decided to cut my mic so that I could ask no more Inconvenient Questions
. As it was so unusual to see an Environmental Journalist asking Al Gore a difficult question the Q&A became an internet hit with almost half a million people watching
a number of different clips of the exchange.
So Mr. Fairley said he wanted to question me about a few details about my membership application form before the SEJ could give approval.
There were a few technical questions but then, and what I thought was the real reason for the phone call, he asked if I understood why my mic was turned off by others who claim to be journalists.
I said that it was wrong because
a) It protected a wealthy businessman/politician and silenced a journalist
b) As evidenced by internet views and media coverage there is a massive public interest in asking Al Gore and powerful people difficult questions
Mr Fairley said that he thought they had behaved appropiately but then in a classic but breath-taking SEJ response he stated:
"I don't want to debate it with you."
A classic SEJ response because when the conversation is going in a direction they don't like their pavlovian response is to shut down the conversation.
Well, luckily on this occasion, Mr Fairley did not control my microphone so he had to listen to my arguments. And I continued to make them to him on the phone. Forcefully.
Then Mr. Fairley revealed perhaps the real REAL reason for the phone call. There was concern regarding my membership application because "I might not want to follow the rules and bylaws of the SEJ".
Well, Mr. Fairley, I pledge to be a journalist and open debate and not cut it off when it is not going the way I want it to.
And Mr. Fairley I pledge to continue to ask difficult questions of the rich and powerful even if they call themselves environmentalists.
I'm not sure if that qualifies me for membership of the Society of Environmental Journalists, but if it doesn't you need to stop claiming to be a society of journalists.