Self-abuse in the Daily Press

Tue, 2008-01-29 09:47Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Self-abuse in the Daily Press

It's a mystery why mainstream newspapers continue to believe that printing passionately ill-informed self criticism (especially on the topic of global warming) is part of their responsibility to readers.

Take this First Person column from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for example. The thrust of the piece is basically this: “Man-caused global warming isn't scientific fact; it's an article of faith for the left - the stuff of belief.” And the author's stated purpose is to encourage “intelligent public debate between qualified people of opposing views.”

There are two problems here:

1. If the author, one “James Pedersen of Edmonds,” has any relevant expertise or any evidence to support his decisive position on climate change, he has failed to share them with readers. His contention that the theories of anthropogenic global warming at “the stuff of belief” arises, well, it appears to arise out of thin air. Wouldn't you hope that a big city newspaper would look for commentators who actually brought value to the product?

2. There is a shortage of “intelligent debate between qualified people of opposing views” on this issue because, overwhelmingly, the qualified people don't have opposing views. (And please, to the trolls who are going to add a link to Marc Morano's ridiculous list of 400 “prominent scientists” who disagree, we have already addressed how bogus that list is and how compromised the source.)

People at the P-I should have some clue as to the state of science on global warming, and they should dismiss, instantly, the interjections of someone who is so clearly out of his depth on the issue. Instead, the editors run the column in some faulty act of liberalism and free speech. They print this sentence, is if it is somehow reasonable:

Both sides claim to love truth, so in an ecumenical spirit, why not hold a grand examination for discovery and come up with an agreement on beliefs that both sides can hold in common?

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been running “a grand examination for discovery” for 15 years - the grandest examination ever organized in the history of science. This is a little detail that a responsible newspaper would include, at least as a footnote, lest it leave its readers even more confused and ill-informed.

Yet confusion reigns and it may not be appropriate to lay the blame at the feet of the energy giants who rent politicians like Senator James Inhofe and fund querulous think tanks that exist to undermine the quality of public debate. The real responsibility should rest, heavily, on the shoulders of media outlets like the P-I, outlets where editors refuse, decline or abdicate their responsibility to ensure that whatever they bring to their paying audience is, in fact, fair, accurate and, in the P-I's case especially, intelligent.

Previous Comments

We get the same nonsense in Vancouver’s concentrated media market on a regular basis. While the deniers have much less exposure in the news itself than just over a year ago, they are given a regular voice in editorials and letters to the editor, such as this ignorant nonsense published in The Province on Sunday: http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/letters/story.html?id=8d16deb2-c69b-4697-9b7d-a11b95eacc7f

The old “weather vs climate” two-step.

Fern Mackenzie

Sigh.

As for advice on working with any press that *might* see the light, I offer: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/10/john_mashey_what_to_do_about_p.php#more

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