Thursday, September 16, 2010

University of Minnesota Pulls Plug on Bell Museum

Movie Premiere...

(Film pulled by University Relations!)

The fickle finger of Mr. Wolter?

From the TwinCities Daily Planet:

Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story has been nearly four years in the making. A team of researchers, filmmakers, and scientists have been up and down the Mississippi River, knee deep in swamps and icy waters, and elbow deep in footage and research. The film, by the U of M's Bell Museum of Natural History, focuses on agriculture, pollution, and sustainable solutions. Now, suddenly, its premiere has been cancelled, and no one can say exactly why.

The film was also scheduled to broadcast on TPT on October 5.

But on September 7th, just as invitations to the premiere were sliding into mailboxes, the U of M pulled the plug on the event and the TPT airing. According to Barbara Coffin, coordinator of public programs at the Bell and executive producer of Troubled Waters, the film was pulled from TPT by University Relations.

The producers at the U's Bell Museum were informed that morning in a letter sent from University Relations: The film would not air on TPT and the party and premiere were shuttered. Later that week the Facebook invite for the premiere was updated to say the release was postponed "to allow time for a review of the film's scientific content."

But insiders believe someone is putting pressure on the University to pull the film--and no one within the University has a convincing story about who was responsible for pulling the film for "scientific review."

According to University News Service director Daniel Wolter, the Bell Museum, which is part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences, is responsible for halting the release. "It was determined by the Bell Museum director and producer of the production," he says. "We are an academic and science-based institution, and we want to ensure a production like this is scientifically sound."

However, the film's director, Larkin McPhee, said she never delayed the release or called for a scientific review. "I do not understand why the University postponed the film's broadcast," she said via email. "I am, along with many others, awaiting explanation from the U."

What's more, she and assistant producer Shanai Matteson, who also serves as community program specialist at the Bell Museum, contend that the film did undergo a scientific review and was extensively fact-checked to "NOVA standards."

"We verified every fact with at least three independent sources," Matteson says of the documentary project.

Matteson says that the film was also reviewed by as many as 12 prominent university scientists, including Jon Foley and David Tilman (both from the of U of M's Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior department); Robert Diaz, a professor of marine science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and an expert on "dead zone" issues in the Gulf of Mexico; Eugene Turner, a zoologist at Louisiana State University who has done extensive research on wetland pollution and coastal erosion; and Nancy Rabalias, another LSU professor whose research has dealt extensively with pollution issues in the Gulf of Mexico.

[But apparently these folks aren't sufficient

to check the science, Mr. Wolter?]

When asked what aspect of the film raised red flags for "scientific review," Wolter says he doesn't know. "I am not sure there is much more I can say there ... it just has been postponed."

As a land-grant institution, the U of M is under increasing pressure to maintain its mission to serve farmers, a policy that has been in place since long before small farmers were supplanted by corporate entities. When asked if the film's "controversial" subject matter--how corporate farming contributes to pollution--raised red flags, Wolter said this was an internal decision. "This is just an internal review process that the Bell called."

["the Bell called for?" Who, exactly, is the Bell, Mr. Wolter]

And when asked what other scientists are going to be part of the second review panel, Wolter also was unsure. "I don't know," he said. "My understanding was the Bell Museum would be responsible for that."

[Again, who is the Bell, Mr. Wolter?]

However, the filmmakers say this isn't true. "Shanai Matteson is correct in stating that the film already underwent scientific review," McPhee says. "As with all my work, I am proud of this production and was honored to collaborate with so many researchers and scientists at the University. I look forward to having Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story reach the public as soon as possible."

Obvious question:

What the hell does chief U of M flack, Daniel Wolter,

have to do with

pulling the plug on this film?

Once again, the University of Minnesota emerges from another bad bout of egg-in-face. No doubt the Morrill Hall Gang had a lot to do with this, because Mr. Wolter does not make decisions like this on his own. He is but the chief flack catcher, pushed to the front to deal with the evil media. If things don't work out right, others can step out of Morrill Hall to 'splain how Mr. Wolter got it wrong...

Recall the famous words of OurLeader cited above: "Everything we do at the University of Minnesota is out in the open."

When will this be true, Mr. President?


No comments: