Out-of-context reporting can have serious consequences, as evidenced by a letter in today’s News & Observer:

If the quotes attributed to DENR Sec. John Skvarla in the Aug. 20 “Under the Dome” are accurate, the governor should ask for his resignation He said if environmental advocates had their way, “we would live in lean-tos and wear loincloths.”

This is insulting to hundreds of local government officials and conservationists who work hand in glove to cultivate growth and preserve our environment. What kind of message does this convey throughout his organization? How could any NGO feel he would exercise objective judgment on any close call when this is what he thinks? …

Writer Richard (Dick) Bierly of Morehead City is a board member of the N.C. Coastal Federation. It’s unfortunate that he wrote his letter before reading this earlier “Locker Room” blog entry, which provided the full context of Svarla’s remarks:

I’ve met with dozens of environmental groups, all of whom come in presuming that we’re going to relax the rules. And my first comment to them — semi-tongue in cheek — is “I’m glad you’re wearing a suit and a dress and so forth, and you drove here in a car, because if you took all of the dots that you articulate from all the environmental groups and put them all together, and everybody gets what they want, we would live in lean-tos and wear loin cloths.” And they don’t want that, either. [Emphasis added.] But nobody ever thinks of what the common ground is to make this economy move forward. …

Note that the very next sentence after “loin cloths” explains that Skvarla does not believe environmental advocates want everyone to live in a lean-to and wear a loin cloth. Instead, he is suggesting that these advocates fail to realize that their policy proposals — followed to logical conclusions — would lead to results that nobody wants.

It’s unfortunate when sloppy journalism misinforms readers. But, hey, the Sunday paper will have $317 worth of coupons!