Statement by the board of directors
The board of directors of FairWarning, a non-profit organization dedicated to warning the public about dangerous consumer products and unfair business practices, has decided to dissolve the non-profit organization starting February 20, 2021. This step it was accomplished with regret as the small nonprofit journalism organization has devoted the past 11 years to protecting the public from harm to its health and safety. Circumstances beyond the board’s control have unfairly damaged FairWarning’s reputation and made it difficult to run a low-budget news organization dependent on charitable donations.
The council would like to thank the donors who have carried out this endeavor for so long. We also wish to thank the many journalists who have contributed their work to the site. We thank our founder and publisher, Myron Levin, for his vision, professionalism and fundraising expertise that has supported the organization since its inception.
FairWarning’s journalism covered automotive safety, environmental hazards, health scams, the need for job protection, fake medications, pesticide dangers, and the toys and equipment that made children sick or killed. His focus on state and federal regulators’ lack of urgency to protect the public has prompted many to take action, saving lives and preventing injury. His reports of severe burns suffered by children from glass-fronted gas fireplaces helped prompt the industry to adopt a safety feature to prevent future injuries.
FairWarning was one of the earliest investigators of the cancer risks caused by talcum powders; examined the racial politics of menthol cigarettes and recounted how giant tobacco companies use trade treaties to fight anti-smoking measures around the world. It revealed a disinformation campaign by the indoor tanning industry to hide the risk of skin cancer.
Additionally, FairWarning produced a pioneering story on small farm immunity from OSHA’s worker deaths investigation; unfortunately there have been many hundreds of them. It has commissioned tests that reveal that gas-powered leaf blowers are prolific polluters that can pose health risks to landscape workers.
FairWarning showed how the articles, ghostly written by major drug companies, corrupted medical literature and were used to boost drug sales or discredit rival drugs. His investigation into contacts between a lobbying company and the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission sparked congressional inquiries followed by his departure.
Articles and editorials based on FairWarning’s reports have appeared in outlets including NBC News, Mother Jones, The Atlantic, McClatchy newspapers, The Oregonian, Salon, and many others. Leading foundations and individual donors supported the nonprofit organization.
The council prides itself on the work done with small staff and tight budgets. It is the intention of the council to partner with another non-profit organization to digitally host the FairWarning archive so that past articles continue to be accessible to the public.
Message from Myron Levin
Last fall, I presented our board of directors with a plan to start looking for a new executive director for FairWarning in 2021. After 50 years as a journalist and 11 years at the helm of FairWarning, I thought it was time for a new leader, someone with energy and vision who could take the organization to a new level. I am writing to you now because the events of the last two weeks have changed the plan.
A long Twitter thread of a candidate who didn’t get the job accused me of making racist statements. It contained serious inaccuracies and distortions. However, in response to the attack, our two staff reporters, including one who worked here for nearly three years, took to Twitter to publicly demand that our advice force me to resign.
The council refused to do so, but we were paralyzed. Hiring new staff and recruiting a strong new leader under these circumstances would be difficult to say the least. And so, the council and I have decided that the best thing to do is to close FairWarning.
We will close things in the next few weeks. We will not accept new donations and plan to donate the balance of our funds to another helpful nonprofit news organization.
I’m sorry to say goodbye, especially in these circumstances. I am proud of what we have accomplished and deeply grateful to the readers and donors who, over the years, have carried out our mission to provide strong monitoring relationships in the public interest. I would also like to thank our board members for their service and the nearly 200 online, print and broadcast media that co-published the FairWarning stories.
Throughout my career, I have always taken to heart the old buzzword to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. This was also the animating spirit of FairWarning. We overcame our weight and produced stories that mattered and that otherwise would not have been told. We have addressed issues of fundamental importance to the health and safety of the public. We have never labeled ourselves as a spokesperson for a particular group. But if you’ve followed us, you’ve seen many stories of bad practices that disproportionately harm helpless people, including people of color and underpaid workers exposed to dangerous working conditions and wage violations.
Thanks to all of you who have allowed us to do our job.
I wish you the best,
Founder and Editor