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Facts, Opinion and Speculation: Know the Difference as We Inform the Public

January 23, 2013

To my fellow members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

You may have seen a report on the Internet today regarding the Academy’s corporate sponsorship program, as well as an article on the program that appeared in the New York Times. It is not my purpose in this message to comment on the report point-by-point, though it does contain factual inaccuracies.

My intention instead is to encourage all members and the entire Academy to show our leadership in disseminating accurate information to the public. To quote a paragraph from my upcoming March Journal President’s Page:

The Academy’s Media Spokesperson Policy requires those who speak on the Academy’s behalf to "provide – and when necessary, seek out – accurate information when acting as a source for the media, the public and Academy members or any other audience." This is good advice for us all. Another pertinent old saying comes from the field of journalism: "If your mother says she loves you – check it out!"

And that is what I ask members to do: Check it out. You will see that the report is a mixture of facts – most of which were obtained from publicly accessible pages on the Academy’s website – and opinion and speculation on the author’s part.

For example, of 67 references at the end of the report, at least 24 (more than one-third) consist of links to the Academy and the Foundation’s websites; the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s website; and research articles published by Academy members. Many of the report’s references are to previous blog postings by the author herself.

In other words, the majority of the report consists of publicly available facts filtered through the author’s opinions. She is of course entitled to her opinions. But opinions are not facts.

There is one indisputable fact in the report about the Academy's sponsorship program: We have one. And for the record, I support the Academy’s sponsorship program, as does the Board of Directors and our members.

Let me make it clear that the Academy does not tailor our messages or programs in any way due to influence by corporate sponsors and this report does not provide evidence to the contrary.

Each year, the Academy utilizes Performance Research, an independent, third-party research company, to examine a random selection of members that is a statistically sound representation of the Academy membership as a whole. The results from these representative surveys have shown an increased awareness and continued support of the sponsorship program.

As members of a science-based organization, I encourage you to not take all information you see at face value, always consider the source (in this case, an advocate who has previously shown her predisposition to find fault with the Academy) and seek out the facts.

Thank you very much!


Ethan A. Bergman, PhD, RD, FADA, CD
President, 2012-2013

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