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The Politico apologies, sort of.

By Joe Romm

"The Politico apologies, sort of."

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imsorry-note.jpgThe Politico noticed the “overheated” response to their journalistic blunder (see “Politico pimps global cooling for Hill deniers“). To their credit, they partly acknowledge they made a mistake:

Editor’s Response from Politico’s Jeanne Cummings:

Giving voice to the losing side of a national debate is often fraught with peril. It requires navigating a terrain littered with grudges, slights, insults and hard feelings.

To do that without becoming ensnared requires extraordinary care. In Politico’s case, we slipped.

The article in question was never intended to offer a sweeping examination of the scientific support for or against climate change.

It set out only to provide an update on the last hold-outs against global warming given the dramatic shifts — both electorally and in public opinion — against their position.

Politico found them still feisty and readying for a fight despite their diminishing odds.

That’s the part we got right.

Here’s where we slipped: The headline overstated what was in the story. That’s a chronic problem in the industry that might have been mitigated if the article had plainly stated its narrow intent, which it didn’t. It also should have included the challenges to the cited scientific data.

Indeed, the headline was especially bad: “Scientists urge caution on global warming.” But so was the whole story, which Politico is still reluctant to accept:

Politico could have moved up the quotes from global warming advocates to provide a more balanced tone to the piece — although it’s not like a reader had to plow through dozens of inches to get to them.

There aren’t “quotes” and there was no “them” — there is one quote, and it isn’t from a scientist.

Note to Politico: We aren’t “global warming advocates.” We don’t advocate global warming. If you must use the label “advocates” — especially if you refuse to find scientists to quote on a science story — then call us “climate science advocates.” If that’s too loaded for you, then you are not really journalists, but are in fact advocates for a view that says there are two legitimiate scientific views: One based on the evidence and theoverwhelming majority of the peer-reviewed literature that is summarized by the top climate scientists in the world every few years and agreed to word for word by all of the major governments in the world, and the other that is primarily rehashing of long-debunked disinformation.

In Politico’s defense, I will note that the article called the challenge to global warming opponents “enormous” and clearly said the National Academy of Sciences and most major scientific bodies don’t agree with them.

Yes, you devoted a single sentence to that statement, even though it represents the overwhelming understanding of the world’s leading scientists and experts on climate.

In addition, Politico’s archives are brimming with articles written about the seriousness of global warming and the legislative and political efforts by countless organizations to combat it.

Then why not use the power of the internet and link to those “brimming” articles, if not in the original piece, than with a “related stories” addendum that many other media outlets use just for this purpose.

The reaction by that broad community to this relatively minor nod to their last opponents seems, itself, a bit overheated. But we chose this path and we’re willing to take the heat. In fact, we invited it.

Undoubtedly, this won’t be the last time Politico finds itself on this road. We hope the next time to be more sure footed.

“Overheated” and “take the heat” — I get it. Politico is making a global warming joke or two, kind of like the Loveley articles, especially the “Gore effect” one (see the second half of “Planet Gore, ever wrong, never in doubt, adds libel to denial“).

Still, a semi-apology from a semi-respectable media outlet is almost rarer than an apology from … President Bush. So, semi-kudos to the Politico.

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4 Responses to The Politico apologies, sort of.

  1. Karen N. says:

    Joe

    Glad you’ve gotten some respect on this. I greatly appreciate your work.

    But I’m wondering when you are going to comment on Obama’s video message to The Governator’s climate conference, announcing a goal of returning to 1990 emission levels by 2020? We know that’s totally inadequate; it’s way below EU targets (they’re arguing about whether to be 20 or 30% *below* 1990 by 2020); I think it might be low enough to kill a deal at Copenhagen (I hear rumors that Obama may be considering some form of a major emitters process, which could be if/after COP-15 fails). Reducing 80% by 2050 is also no longer really relevant either, but that’s less important than the near-term targets.

    Check out Hansen’s latest comments to the Environmental Audit Committee in the United Kingdom, along with audio of Obama and several others, at http://www.ecoshock.org/DNclimate08.html.

  2. John Mashey says:

    Actually, I think Politico screwed but then did a better-than-average job of recovery, in particular, by presenting a letter and another article in equal prominence to the original article.

    See details @ Deltoid.

    Specifically, the original (poor) article was under “Lobbying”.

    The letter and good article are under “Ideas”.

    There is an element of accuracy here, so I’d actually give Politico the benefit of a doubt, and if someone knowledgable offers to help them a little on science-related reporting, that’s a good investment, and much better than putting out fires.

  3. Marion Delgado says:

    John Mashey:

    I suspect Lambert et al. are right. I also think Glenn Greenwald has evaluated them correctly. So better to place them where the GOP was before a few “mavericks” like McCain admitted there was global warming.

    They’re rigid, market fundamentalists and wholly subsidiary to the Republican Party of the United States. That’s true in terms of their history so far, their ownership, their funding, their management, everything.

    Hence, any pressure you can bring to bear on them might bear fruit or might not. You cannot educate them. Politico is a conservative, pro-deregulation, pro-privatization, anti-environmentalist advocacy site.

    Best of all, frankly, is what Greenwald does – show what they are, and unless that’s your cup of tea, you’ll avoid them altogether.

    In summary: a possibly pressurable right-wing republican media vehicle. It only harms the discussion to pretend they’re “fair and balanced.”

  4. john says:

    As apologies go, I’m underwhelmed. They understate the grossly misleading nature of the entire article and attempt to present the headline as the problem. But if headlines are meant to encapsulate the article, then there was noting wrong with the headline — it was the article that was misleading.

    Pretending otherwise is just more misleading journalism.

    But at least you backed them into a corner sufficiently to get them to scramble in order to appear that they have a scrap of objectivity. Key word: appear.

    It’s pretty clear from their coverage of everything from politics to economics to security that they are little more than right-wing hacks: the print equivalent of Faux News.