Planet Gore

The corruption of environmental journalism

The four MSM reports (WaPo, NYTimes, Chicago Trib, CNN) out of the International Conference on Climate Change in New York are worth examining as evidence of the professional corruption that now pervades environmental reporting.
The correspondents uniformly avoided reporting on the evidence presented at the conference, but instead tried to marginalize it as a meeting of quacks.
Tactic 1 in this advocacy journalism is loaded labeling of conference organizers:
The conference was sponsored by the “Heartland Institute, a libertarian, free-market think tank that, critics note, receives some of its funding from oil and energy companies,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s Stevenson Swanson in a typical dispatch.
Swanson then brings in a green advocacy group — sans labeling — to immediately marginalize conference attendees: “They are ‘an oddball collection of ideologues, deniers and front men for energy companies,’ in the words of David Doniger, head of climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council.”
Tactic 2 is a statement of “established facts” by the reporter in order to signal to the reader that there is no debate on the subject:
“(The IPCC reports) published last year and embraced by all major nations and scientific academies,” wrote the New York Times Andrew Revkin, “concluded that most warming since 1950 has been caused by humans and that centuries of rising temperatures and seas and ecological disruption lay ahead if emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide were not curbed.”
Such statements ignore the volatility in “consensus” about climate science over just the past 30 years; the larger economic debate over environmental policy — epitomized by Lomborg’s Nobel panel of economists and also addressed at the Heartland conference in New York; as well as polls of climatologists such as that done by In short, the garden variety bias-by-omission that afflicts so much MSM reporting.
Tactic 3 is sneering, in-your-face advocacy, as performed by CNN “Chief Technology and Environment correspondent” Miles O’Brien:

O’BRIEN: Joe Bast is president of Heartland. He says the public is skeptical about global warming. But a recent poll from Yale found the vast majority of Americans believe global warming is real and a serious threat. (To Bast:) I can’t help but think you’re living on a different planet than I am.
BAST: I probably am. I think your planet is very small and very  . . . a kind of echo chamber sort of thing.
O’BRIEN: Dan Fagin teaches journalism and writes on the environment. He says skeptics have changed their tune as evidence started stacking up against them. A decade ago they denied global warming even existed.
FAGIN: They’re getting closer to the scientific reality, although they’re certainly not there yet. The only way that they could be right is if there was some kind of grand conspiracy.
O’BRIEN: But that is what Heartland desperately wants us to believe. Even the Flat Earth Society didn’t fold its tents in 1493.

Ah, journalism.


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