On the other hand …

Apr 29, 2009 at 12:00 am

Despite our affinity for words printed on actual paper, there's no denying that there's much out there on the Web that's truly worthy journalism. A good example is The Michigan Messenger (michiganmessenger.com), which reinforced our decision to give it a "Best of" award by producing a series of stories over the past week about a Dow Chemical-sponsored walleye festival along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers in Saginaw County.

The problem is that said walleye are contaminated with highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin — contamination that has been linked to Dow's plant in Midland.

As the result of reporting by MM's Eartha Jane Melzer, the federal Environmental Protection Agency "issued a note to reporters on the need for people to have current and accurate information when making decisions about eating local fish. The agency also announced that the Saginaw County Health Department would attend this weekend's festival and distribute fliers with information about the state's updated fish consumption advisory."

Festival organizers didn't seem all that worried. For one thing, they weren't serving any walleye at their big fish fry, turning to ocean pollack instead. But that didn't mean the walleye caught would go uneaten. As Melzer reported:

"... just as the Michigan Department of Community Health is warning that children and pre-menopausal women should mostly avoid eating river fish including walleye because of contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin, organizers of the festival say they plan to donate walleye fillets to a local food bank."

No mention was made whether the poor would be given cake to go with their dioxin-laced fish. However, Melzer's cohort Ed Brayton produced a good piece taking the Midland Daily News to task for failing to take note of the contamination risk and its links to the town's largest employer:

"The Midland Daily News did a story on that Freeland Walleye Festival going on this weekend and didn't even mention the many health warnings put out by the state telling most of the population not to eat walleye due to dioxin and PCB contamination. The article talks about how the walleye supply in those rivers has been boosted by DNR actions in the past, but no mention whatsoever of any potential dangers from contaminated fish.

So there you have it: Fish that shouldn't get fried, a local paper that deserves to be roasted and a corporate polluter getting well skewered. For news hounds, that's a veritable feast no matter how it's served.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]