Central Basin Municipal Water District Demands a Retraction from the LA Times


Sep 16, 2011, 09:00 ET from Central Basin Municipal Water District

COMMERCE, Calif., Sept. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Central Basin Municipal Water District has demanded an immediate retraction from the Los Angeles Times for the serious factual errors in two stories that ran this week. The stories, which revolve around the District's public outreach efforts, falsely accuse Central Basin of paying $200,000 to finance a "news website" called News Hawks Review.

The reality: Central Basin does not "finance" the online news site News Hawks Review. Central Basin doesn't even have a contract with this organization.

"Things have changed since I was a newspaper reporter and editor," said Central Basin General Manager Art Aguilar. "In those days, a reporter checked the facts and an editor approved running a story only when the facts were confirmed. That certainly wasn't the case with the LA Times this week. Had the reporter done even a little research, he would have found that Central Basin has never paid this website."

Central Basin does have a contract with the Coghlan Consulting Group, to provide news content for local news agencies, as well as for Central Basin press releases and website content. Their task was to make Central Basin's target audiences aware of key programs and services. Many stories were picked up on a website called News Hawks Review. Coghlan Consulting has received a total of $70,000 for work completed since November 2010.

"The misperception that this story creates is stunningly inaccurate and very damaging," continued Aguilar. "From the inflated dollar amount to the factual errors to the suggestion that we've somehow done something secretively, it all begins to feel like a deliberate attempt to misrepresent our agency. Either that or the reporter simply wasn't thorough."

Central Basin also charges that the reporter gave the impression that no other public agency is engaging in public outreach. In reality, it is routine for public agencies to have people dedicated to public outreach, community relations and even advertising.

"Not only have we always been extremely open about our outreach practices, but the press releases and stories we wrote, such as those about our recycled water system or the need for improved groundwater storage, cover critical issues that just aren't being picked up by news editors," added Aguilar. "Using the internet to raise awareness about an issue is a pretty standard outreach practice, the last time I checked."

(The full text of the retraction demand and CBMWD's letter to the LA Times Editor are available at www.centralbasin.org)

Central Basin is a public agency that wholesales imported water to cities, mutual water companies, investor-owned utilities and private companies in southeast Los Angeles County, serving a population of more than 2 million. In addition, Central Basin provides the region with recycled water for municipal, commercial and industrial uses. Formed in 1952, Central Basin is committed to ensuring a safe and reliable water supply for the region. For more information please visit www.centralbasin.org.

SOURCE Central Basin Municipal Water District