NEW YORK, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- The dean at the journalism school at Columbia University defended the integrity of reporters investigating what Exxon Mobil scientists knew about climate change.
Journalism graduate students at Columbia started their investigation into Exxon records in early 2014 and then coordinated with the Los Angeles Times. In October, the newspaper wrote Exxon "publicly cast doubt" on the existence of global warming after years of leading climate research.
The debate caught the attention of the New York Attorney General's office, which issued a subpoena to Exxon seeking clarity on the issue. In November, Exxon turned its attention to Columbia, however, questioning the effectiveness of the research.
Steve Coll, dean of the graduate school of journalism, said the project's director, Susanne Rust, is an "accomplished investigative journalist with a background in science and a strong record of environmental and public health work."
Exxon officials said they were concerned about the agenda surrounding the reporting. Ken Cohen, Exxon's vice president of public and government affairs, said the reporting was inaccurate, deliberately misleading and charged "activists" with exploiting the issue. The company said its research widely mirrored the global understanding of climate issues at the time.
Coll stressed the graduate team was tasked with vetting internal research about climate change carried out by energy companies, "including but hardly limited to Exxon Mobil."
"The Times has maintained full editorial control over everything it has published," he added. "The work will continue."
Cohen, meanwhile, said reporters took much of the company's track record on climate issues out of context and largely ignored its work with agencies like the federal Department of Energy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Coll, in a six-page letter to Exxon, replied that charges of misrepresentation are serious matters for investigative journalists.
"Yet my review of this case has produced no evidence to support your allegation and much to contradict it."