UPDATE: Yes, bad coverage by big media, including the NYT‘s Revkin, is one reason there has been a modest decline since April 2008 in the number of Americans who know that there is solid (in fact, overwhelming) evidence the Earth is warming and humans are the primary cause (see here). Big media “did” the global warming story in 2006 and 2007 when Gore’s movie came out and then throughout 2007 when the IPCC released its four major summary reports. Looking for a new angle, the NY Times and others played up the global cooling myth. Now couple that with a ramped up disinformation campaign from the deniers who keep repeating the global cooling myth and continued lame messaging from the scientific community (see “Why scientists aren’t more persuasive, Part 1“) and a progressive community filled with people who have been persuaded by bad analysis that they shouldn’t even talk about “global warming” (see Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica’s phrase ‘our deteriorating atmosphere’ isn’t going to replace ‘global warming’ “” and that’s a good thing). That’s a recipe for an underinformed public.
I have serious doubts whether major journalists should be blogging very much. It conflates different roles, which can be confusing to the reader, and I’ve always thought that the media’s blogging was inherently lower quality journalism but still imprinted with the credibility of the journalist and his or her media organization (see “What exactly is the difference between journalism and blogging?“).
Today’s remarkble NPR interview of top NY Times climate reporter Andrew Revkin underscores my doubts and introduces yet another major problem I hadn’t considered — sagging quality of the print reporting as a result of too much time spent blogging. Or, in Andy’s case, he’s apparently doing the same amount of blogging but more print reporting.
Revkin says “I’ve been in print more, but I haven’t slowed down on the blog.” The impact:
“I’ve made missteps. I’ve made probably more mistakes this year in my print stories than I had before. That’s kind of frustrating.”
You aren’t the only one who is frustrated, Andy!
The published articles reach a vastly larger audience. I’d gladly do without every one of Andy’s posts at his blog, many of which are quite informative — in return for his not repeatedly screwing up the facts and the framing of those facts in just one recent story, see “NYT’s Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation.”
I suspect (or, at least, hope) that if he had had more time to get the facts right, he might not have written that story at all or it would have completely reframed it. And yes, if you check the sentences I said were wrong or misleading, he went back and changed every single one of them — although the change to the key opening sentence was just adding one word, “relatively,” which is quite inadequate:
… global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.
That is still very misleading, with the phrase “relatively stable for a decade” not actually based on scientific data and the phrase “may even drop” not supported by the recent scientific literature, including the work of the one person Andy cites, Mojib Latif (see “Exclusive interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist“).
[I still haven’t seen the print edition of that story — if someone can find it and send me the PDF, I’d love to see it. I think my blog post was too late to correct the print story.]
Let me end with a general statement I made after the terrific journalist James Fallows made some errant statements on climate (see “James Fallows, Physics for Future Presidents, Al Gore, blogging journalists, and what will become of hockey sticks on an ice-free planet?“):
Blogging journalists. Now that global warming and clean energy have become a first-tier political issue, every major journalist is writing about it. My unsolicited advice: This is the story of the century, so you should be writing about it, but it has many mine fields so please do your homework before opining on it….
FINAL NOTE TO MEDIA: Time for you to go back to the basics of reporting the science. You might stop the blogging and start with this story — 18 leading scientific organizations send letter to Senators affirming the climate is changing, “human activities are the primary driver,” impacts are projected to worsen “substantially” and “If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced.”
- NYT’s Revkin persists in selling spin from long-wrong deniers that the IPCC overestimates the danger from warming, when the reverse is true
- Media enable denier spin 1: A (sort of) cold January doesn’t mean climate stopped warming.
- Unstaining Al Gore’s good name 2: He is not “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” and is owed a correction and apology by the New York Times