The saga over the Girl Scouts of the USA's "MEdia" publication has yet to simmer. On Monday, days after the Blaze exposed the book's Media Matters reference, Wendy Thomas Russell, the author, responded to the controversy on her web site.
In the end, her blog post addressing the issue leaves more questions than it does provide answers.
In her post, Russell highlights the process through which she came to win a contract and write the "MEdia" book (she received contracts for two additional publications as well). Russell explains that all three of the books she wrote "went through various layers of editing." Outside of "a few rewrites," she claims that she was "mostly uninvolved" in the final stages of the books. Russell writes:
Fast forward to last week when I found my name in a story on The Blaze, a conservative blog founded by Glenn Beck. In the Dec. 27 post, writer Billy Hallowell accuses the Girl Scouts of showing liberal bias by including in MEdia a reference to Media Matters, a website devoted to debunking misinformation by conservative news media — primarily Fox News. (As you can imagine, Beck’s not a big fan.) Hallowell states, “one wonders why the book’s authors, Wendy Thomas Russell and Sarah Goodman [who contributed several profiles to MEdia], would include this as the sole source for getting ‘the word out about media misinformation.’”
After describing the background to her own awareness about the controversy, Russell claims that she has no idea how Media Matters ended up making its way into the book. In fact, she apparently didn't know anything about Media Matters until last week.
Additionally, Russell contends that she never would have included the source due to its overt bias. "Media Matters’ slant isn’t only evident in the content, it’s spelled out in the freaking masthead," she writes.
As we originally reported, on page 25, the current version of the "MEdia" book references Media Matters in the following manner:
The Internet is a breeding ground for “urban legends,” which are false stories told as if true. Next time you receive a txt or e-mail about something that seems unbelievable, confirm it before you spread it.
The fact-checking site snopes.com investigates everything from urban legends to “news” articles and posts its findings. Media Matters for America (http://mediamatters.org/) gets the word out about media misinformation.
Here's a copy of the page:
But Russell claims that her version simply read:
The Internet is a breeding ground for “urban legends,” which are false stories told as if true, and then spread quickly. Next time you receive a txt or a forwarded e-mail about something terrible that happened to someone, try to confirm it. The fact-checking site snopes.com investigates everything from urban legends to “news” articles and posts its findings.
So, the question is: If not Russell, then who put the reference into the book? The author approached me via Twitter on Monday to share a link to her response to the "MEdia" controversy. I asked her if it were possible that her co-author, Sarah Goodman, might have been the culprit and she responded, saying, "As I understand it, Sarah contributed some profiles to the book, but that's about it. I kind of doubt that was her add-in."
In the end, Russell contends that she's "not sure what happened there, or who made it happen," but she says she's found the "whole ordeal highly entertaining."
Media Matters also responded to the controversy and documented all of the attention that it was given. Rather than focusing on the disturbing fact that biased information was infused into children's literature, the group seemed more concerned about the Blaze and "right-wing media" and our "attack" on the Girl Scouts:
The right-wing media closed out 2011 by attacking the Girl Scouts of America for, in the words of Glenn Beck website The Blaze, publishing a book that "refers young readers to Media Matters for America as one of the primary sources for debunking lies and deceit." Fox News led the charge, devoting more than 15 minutes over two days and three programs to the GSA's "liberal ideology," including its purported ties to Planned Parenthood.
While the Girl Scouts confirmed (as they originally told the Blaze) to the Daily Caller that "...upcoming reprints of journeys materials will not include links to Media Matters," nothing has been said about the current versions that may still be on bookshelves.
Regardless of ideological affiliation, this scenario is more concerning than it is "entertaining," especially considering that young, impressionable girls are on the receiving end of this material.