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The New York Times and A.P. Can Do Better

By Joe Romm  

"The New York Times and A.P. Can Do Better"

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Here are two small clues that explain the decline of the relevance of Big Media. The New York Times ran a story Monday, “Climate Change May Hurt Asian Economies,” from the Associated Press. The story opens:

Hotter temperatures and higher sea levels could devastate Asian economies, displace millions of people and put millions more at risk from infectious disease, according to a climate change report released Monday.

I have kept the NYT‘s original web-link, which goes not to the report, but to their extensive reporting on climate change. This is a standard for the Times, but relatively useless for savvy online readers who have no difficulty whatsoever finding extensive background on the subject of climate change but are actually interested in the study.

And this brings me to my second complaint. If you read this story, you will have a great deal of difficulty finding the report online, since they never mention who actually sponsored it. The second paragraph states:

Global temperatures will rise by up to 4 degrees by 2030, particularly in the arid regions of northern Pakistan, India and China, predicted the report, conducted by Australia’s main research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

But if you google that agency and go to their web site, www.csiro.au, you will probably be as surprised as I was that there is no mention of any such report.

And that’s because the research was led by Ben Preston, a research scientist at CSIRO, but the research was done for the Australian Climate Change & Development Roundtable [CCDR] — a fact that the article never mentions. So you would have to spend some time with Google sorting this all-out. If you do, you will find that a great many other journalists are also confused about who did this report: ABC news online says [incorrectly] there is a two-part report from CSIRO.

To find the report — and the executive summary and the mystery second report (which is not at all by CSIRO) — go to www.ccdr.org.au and click on Reports.

This is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but does go to show that most blogs probably have higher standards or more usefulness (or both) on these matters than Big Media.

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One Response to The New York Times and A.P. Can Do Better

  1. Fergus Brown says:

    This is an interesting case of how the media can work. The same error (of attribution) appears on Reuters, The IHT, TerraDaily, Agence France Presse. Several of the internet-based comments are more or less direct lifts of the AP release from a couple of days ago. What this does do is raise the question of whether any of these journalism-based organisations actually checked the facts before rushing into print. It also demonstrates how an example of misreporting can be escalated rapidly by non-judgmental repetition. You are right, that in this case it probably isn’t a huge deal (there aren’t many surprises in the press release, after all), but when an important paper or finding is released, if it is inaccurately reported on one of the news networks or agencies, the ‘error’ can escalate in no time, until it is the original report which is the ‘facts’, and the original material becomes lost in the ‘rubbish’. An important observation for us all to note if we want to understand the scale of difficulty involved in publicising the truth (as opposed to the ‘story’).
    Regards,