What exactly is the difference between journalism and blogging? ABC’s Jake Tapper and the AP blow the “White House disses EPA endangerment finding” non-story.

UPDATE:  Talk about journalistic malpractice.  Greenwire (subs. req’d, reprinted below) now reports that “Comments accusing U.S. EPA of ignoring the economic consequences of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act that were included in a White House document publicized today were written by a Small Business Administration office headed by someone appointed by President George W. Bush.”

Seriously, what is the difference between blogging and journalism?  My answer is at the end.  Your comments are welcome, as always.

The climate misreporting of the day goes to ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper and the AP’s Dina Cappiello.  Tapper’s blog today runs the sensational but untrue headline:

Obama Administration Memo Warns of Harm to Economy if Greenhouse Gases Regulated through Clean Air Act

Tapper then asserts, very incorrectly

The White House has not yet decided to go forward with the [endangerment] finding. There is a 60-day comment period following the finding. As part of this process, the Obama administration requested comment from various departments and agencies on the endangerment finding, which is where the memo came from.

In fact, the White House decided to go forward with the endangerment finding weeks ago.  The 60-day comment period is for public comments, and the memo ain’t part of that process.  But otherwise, the paragraph is spot on!

[If you want to know why I moderate this blog, read Tapper’s comments.]

The AP story ran a similarly inaccurate headline:

White House memo challenges EPA finding on warming

Rather than wasting your time with any further discussion of their misreporting, let’s just see what OMB director Peter Orszag has to say.  The OMB is the source of this “White House memo” and apparently journalists don’t interview sources anymore.  Orszag explains on his blog:

Media reports today are suggesting that OMB has found fault with EPA’s proposed finding that emissions of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles contribute to air pollution that endangers public health and welfare.  Any reports suggesting that OMB was opposed to the finding are unfounded.

The quotations circulating in the press are from a document in which OMB simply collated and collected disparate comments from various agencies during the inter-agency review process of the proposed finding.   These collected comments were not necessarily internally consistent, since they came from multiple sources, and they do not necessarily represent the views of either OMB or the Administration.  In other words, we simply receive comments from various agencies and pass them along to EPA for consideration, regardless of the substantive merit of those comments.  In general, passing along these types of comments to an agency proposing a finding often helps to improve the quality of the notice.

Perhaps more importantly, OMB concluded review of the preliminary finding several weeks ago, which then allowed EPA to move forward with the proposed finding.   As I wrote on this blog on April 17, the “proposed finding is carefully rooted in both law and science.”  I also noted: “By itself, the EPA’s proposed finding imposes no regulation.  (Indeed, by itself, it requires nothing at all.)  If and when the endangerment finding is made final, the EPA will turn to the question whether and how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles.”

The bottom line is that OMB would have not concluded review, which allows the finding to move forward, if we had concerns about whether EPA’s finding was consistent with either the law or the underlying science.  The press reports to the contrary are simply false.

I was going to say that the difference between journalism and blogging is checking your sources.  But that’s not quite right.  Bloggers check sources all the time.

No, I think the difference is that bloggers don’t pretend to be journalists….

For more on this non-story, see Grist.

The full, amazing Greenwire breaking story:

Comments accusing U.S. EPA of ignoring the economic consequences of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act that were included in a White House document publicized today were written by a Small Business Administration office headed by someone appointed by President George W. Bush, an Obama administration official said.

Those comments by SBA’s Office of Advocacy were included in a memo sent to EPA by the White House Office of Management and Budget last month in response to the agency’s proposed finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.

The memo was the focus of widespread media coverage today as Republican lawmakers and industry groups held up the OMB document as a reason to be leery of possible EPA curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.

The document — which OMB described as a compilation of agency comments and recommendations — included criticism that EPA had failed to account for costly regulation of small sources like hospitals and schools — a theme for congressional Republicans opposed to federal climate regulations.

“Making the decision to regulate CO2 under the [Clean Air Act] for the first time is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities,” the document said. That statement was submitted by the business advocacy office, the administration official said.

The mission of SBA’s Office of Advocacy is to “reduce the burdens that federal policies impose on small firms and maximize the benefits small businesses receive from the government,” according to the office’s Web site.

The office’s acting chief counsel, Shawne McGibbon, was appointed last November under the Bush administration. McGibbon worked for former Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.) before joining SBA, an agency spokesman said.

7 Responses to What exactly is the difference between journalism and blogging? ABC’s Jake Tapper and the AP blow the “White House disses EPA endangerment finding” non-story.

  1. ecostew says:

    Most unfortunate – the media does its AGW nonsense again, and it’s being used by Rs to spread disinformation on science. But, always forward, and stay grounded in peer-reviewed science as embraced by the Obama,Administration.

  2. Will Koroluk says:

    I’d like to see news organizations stop blogs by their reporters and leave the opinion stuff to well-qualified writers. Sort of like the days when you got well-considered opinion on op-ed pages, and factual reporting (mostly) in the news columns.

    Bloggers can and do say pretty well anything they want. Reporters have far less latitude because they have an editor (one hopes) looking at the piece before readers see it.

    The problem is the belief that blogs simply have to be blunt and controversial. That can be done from a position of strength (knowledge) or from a position of weakness (ignorance). With many news reporters without specialized training, it’s usually the later. Imagine, if you will, Joe Reporter, with a single high-school physics course, tearing a scientific strip off Hansen, for example, or Chu, or Weaver, or any of the thousands of others whose opinions are based on years of scientific inquiry.

    I notice that your occasional tendency to turn into a pit bull on this blog is not in evidence in your Salon pieces, Joe. You write differently there, and I wonder if it’s because there is an editor looking at your piece before readers see it.

    So, in answer to your question about the difference between blogging and journalism, my answer is that blogs are (usually) unedited platforms for opinions, valid or not. Reporting is just that: a recitation of the facts placed, without bias, into a context so the reader can understand them. And a reporter’s work is always, always, passed under the flinty gaze of an experienced editor who has a couple of good degrees, plenty of experience, and a box of sharp pencils.

    A paper who does less than that does its readers an immense disservice.

    Just sayin’.

  3. Rick Covert says:


    Dina Cappiello seriously?! When she worked with the Houston Chronicle she was instrumental in reporting on the City of Houston’s pollution problems and the oil refineries on the Houston Ship Channel were dumping toxins into the air and quantifiying the toxic pollution and its effect on the residents there and then reported it in the Chronicle. She’s one of the unsung heros of the Houston clean air movement. Wow! This is dissapointing!

  4. Tapper is a disgrace to the field of journalism — he ran the most inappropriate nonsense last year during the primaries — ABC might as well be FOX.

  5. Tom says:

    Nice job on this, Joe. And nice that this was squashed so quickly, unlike the MIT/Reilly thing, which has extended over many news cycles.

  6. bdbd says:

    Does a copy of the SBA Office of Advocacy memo exist anywhere? I think the “she’s a Bushie” aspect of this is probably being overplayed (on top of the inept reporting by Tapper and his confederates) — the Office of Advocacy’s job is to advocate for the interests of small entities that might be affected by a future rulemaking, and the rulemaking agency (EPA in this case, if a rulemaking gets started) has to take account of these impacts in the Regulatory Flexibility section of the overall Regulatory Impact Analysis. that’s just how the rulemaking process works.

  7. bdbd says:

    I should add that the rulemaking agency’s view of the small entity impacts doesn’t have to coincide with that of the SBA and the Office of Advocacy, but Advocacy can be a real thorn at times.