4FRI probe hits radio station’s handling of story

A report from the ombudsman’s office at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was released last week, questioning the editorial independence of National Public Radio affiliate KNAU from its home university in killing a story.

The investigation, titled “Conflicts at KNAU,” examines a now-departed station general manager’s motivation for killing a controversial news series focusing on deep-seated problems with the $280 million U.S. Forest Service contract for the Four Forests Restoration Initiative.

The report investigated the timing of a $10,000 donation to KNAU from a university research institute with ties to the 4FRI contractors. The funds went to an emergency information service, in which the Arizona Daily Sun and other community groups and government agencies are partners.



  1. It is important to note that there are three particularly harmful factual errors in this news article. The following statements are responses to the inaccuracies:

    1) The Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University and Dr. Wally Covington have no financial or other ties to Pioneer Forest Products. Any representations to the contrary are wrong and harmful. As a public agency, our funding and relationships are public record.

    2) ERI Executive Director Dr. Wally Covington never lobbied on behalf of Pioneer.

    3) While Dr. Covington personally knew Marlin Johnson, a consultant for Pioneer, he never praised the company.

    The article perpetuates incorrect information that appeared in a report written by an ombudsman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The ombudsman report and Daily Sun article wrongly assert financial ties between ERI and Pioneer (“ … a university research institute with ties to the 4FRI contractors”). This is a harmful statement because it can directly affect our funding; and it is one that is false and for which there is no evidence.

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