New York Times public editor files final report, never mentions the paper’s dreadful global warming coverage

The New York Times has been widely criticized for its terrible climate coverage in the past three years.  But you would never know that from, “A Final Report From Internal Affairs,” the last column of Clark Hoyt, the public editor.

Hoyt was supposed to represent an objective, independent perspective that represents the public’s concerns — in order “to help this newspaper live up to its own high journalistic standards,” as he put it.  But he has nary a word to say about the one area where the NYT failed to live up to its standards more than any other.

Future generations will certainly never remember what Hoyt calls his “disagreement of greatest consequence [with exec editor Bill Keller] “” over the Times article suggesting that John McCain had had an extramarital affair with a young female lobbyist.”

But they will be bitter and puzzled over how the one-time ‘paper of record’ blew the story of the century (see Science Times stunner: “”¦ a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity” and the 2009 “Citizen Kane” award for non-excellence in climate journalism and below).

This year alone, the NYT has put three dreadful, unbalanced “teach the controversy” climate pieces on its most precious real estate — the front page:

Then again, Hoyt’s omission is not a total surprise since Hoyt blew the big stolen-email story, as I discussed in December (see Anti-science idealogues spin the NY Times public editor, Clark Hoyt, on “Climategate”:  Revkin quickly makes fool of Hoyt with dreadful front-page story):

One thing is clear from the story known as ClimateGate “” the anti-science ideologues are much better at Working the Refs than the climate science realists….

Here’s our own Ken Levenson from a comment on today’s CP post, British PM attacks “anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics” while UK Conservatives reaffirm climate science and need for “desperately urgent” Copenhagen deal:

What a breath of fresh air! Particularly after just ingesting Clark Hoyt’s pile of manure this morning.

http://”” 2009/ 12/ 06/ opinion/ 06pubed.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

The only good thing I can say about Hoyt’s treatment is that it unintentionally allows Andy Revkin to hang himself. Revkin is quoted at the end saying “Our coverage, looked at in toto, has never bought the catastrophe conclusion and always aimed to examine the potential for both overstatement and understatement,”


That Revkin betrays his inclination for the horserace over “truth” is just another nail in the coffin for his pathetic coverage. Too bad Hoyt has gotten used in the process.

I agree that Hoyt’s piece, “Stolen E-Mail, Stoking the Climate Debate,” raises questions about his own bias “” and Revkin’s independence to cover the story.

What’s shocking is that Hoyt, the supposed “readers’ representative” only quotes from those who think the Times has underplayed the story, which is hardly what the independent public editor should be doing….

In his December piece, Hoyt has three straight quotes from those on one side, including the uber-extreme anti-science Steven Milloy — without bothering to mention Milloy’s  connections to Philip Morris and ExxonMobil,  connections even Fox News  apologized for failing to disclose.

So Hoyt leaves after 3 years, another in a long line of forgettable members of the status quo media oblivious to the media’s miscoverage of the story, oblivious to the multiple catastrophes we face if we don’t quickly and sharply get off our current greenhouse gas emissions —  catastrophes enabled by a snoozing media.

Hoyt says his “assignment has been to try to help this newspaper live up to its own high journalistic standards.”

Here’s a sample of the NYT’s flawed coverage during Hoyt’s tenure:

15 Responses to New York Times public editor files final report, never mentions the paper’s dreadful global warming coverage

  1. Lou Grinzo says:

    Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.

    — Henrik Tikkanen

  2. mike roddy says:

    I loved that Ken Levenson quote, thanks for running it.

    A lot of us have been furious over the New York Times climate coverage, especially those of us old enough to remember the courageous stances it took 30 years ago. Giving clowns like Watts and Milloy equal treatment just defies belief.

    It may not be the public editor or the staff, including Tierney and Revkin. This comes from the top: the Sulzbergers. If they had any integrity at all they wouldn’t be running front page Exxon Mobil ads either, followed up by puff pieces.

    It’s the same pyschopathic greed and sense of upper class entitlement that was responsible for the decay of Rome, Bourbon France, and any number of other squalid empires. It’s not the souls of Americans, it’s the lack of soul of those who are pulling the levers of power.

    These kinds of people always self destruct, and a new political class takes over. The difference this time is that the new rulers won’t be Visigoths or revolutionaries. The corrective response will be the vast forces of nature itself, and it is going to hit every one of us.

  3. John Mashey says:

    Well, now and then one, finds refreshingly good journalism.
    MySouTEx is “comprised of three newspapers in south Texas”.

    They covered a typical local-news story, rapidly noticed by the blogosphere, including Marc Morano, but whose issues became quickly apparent hoax by the father.

    They followed up, straightforwardly explained they goofed and how it happened, and continued with the story, at the same level of prominence.

    Zeke Hausfather has a good summary of this, including Michael Tobis’ drive to Beeville to talk to people. Zeke did a terrific, chart that shows the day-by-day propagation through a welcoming part blogosphere, specifically that part that is skeptical of any science, but eagerly accepts the idea that a 4th-grader won a national prize for disproving AGW.

    If people remember Kristen Byrnes, a 15-year-old who “disproved” AGW a few years ago, this does a trend analysis of the two cases – about 2016, an unborn baby will disprove AGW.

    The real takeaway is *not* the silliness of the hoax, but:

    1) Some people will believe *anything* and repeat it, not a surprise.

    2) Some small-town journalists exhibit professionalism that might be emulated by people at much better-known newspapers.

  4. mike roddy says:

    Thanks, John Mashey. Here’s another paper that has much better climate change coverage than the New York Times: the Salt Lake City Tribune, which tries to educate people in a state that is dominated by coal power, and where big trucks driven by hard right Republicans are the norm. They didn’t stop telling the truth because of fear of losing advertisers or pressure from the Right, either.

    The NY Times readership is of course highly educated. Sulzberger and his cronies are trying to confuse their readership about climate science, and plant doubts. Or, put another way: lying for money.

    The country needs a new paper of record, because the Times is irredeemable. This includes their war and finance coverage, too.

    Hello, George Soros?

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Despite People Writing to Him and Calling Him

    (And Yet, Looking Forward to The New Public Editor)

    During the last three years, I sent at least several messages to Clark Hoyt, The Public Editor, about the Times’ dismal coverage of climate change and near-complete lack of coverage of the country’s largest company, ExxonMobil. On some issues, I sent messages to both Andy Revkin and to Clark Hoyt. I’ve also asked Andy to follow up on some issues with The Times. I’ve also left phone messages at Clark Hoyt’s number and, numerous times, at Andy’s number in the past. I’ve done just about as much as I possibly could do, regarding The Times’ irresponsible coverage, except for camping out on the sidewalk in front of their new building.

    (I visited the old and new buildings a few years ago, but that was to see the the buildings and to drop off a copy of a book for one of the columnists.)

    I’ve been following the Times’ climate change coverage for years. It would be impossible to do a detailed coherent analysis of their coverage, tracking the articles, placement, titles, line-by-line wording, what they did cover and (very importantly) what they didn’t cover, and so forth, and NOT come to the conclusion that they have been either grossly negligent, dramatically incompetent, unethical, or some combination of all three. Of course, one can’t see into The Times’ mind: One can only see and analyze the results, on the printed page. At least there is a record, with names attached. That’s one nice thing about mess-ups in the media: there’s a clear record, with names.

    But the past is the past. So what about the future?

    A VITAL goal — and that is no overstatement! — should be to make sure that whoever is chosen as the new Public Editor gets ample information, and immediate input, regarding fact-based concerns about The Times’ coverage of climate change. Her or his in-box should be full of fact-based concerns on Day One, and indeed we should send well-worded, fact-based concerns to Her/Him, make followup calls, and visit the building when possible. We should not allow or give the new Public Editor the slightest excuse to be able to say “I didn’t know” or “nobody made me aware”.

    Indeed, Joe (and Climate Progress), please consider dedicating a post (just like your present one) written as a positive “open letter” to the new Public Editor, by name, when she/he is named, adopting a positive stance towards the future and laying out our largest fact-based concerns about The Times’ coverage, for all to see.

    Let’s explain, from Day One, to the new Public Editor about why we are concerned that The Times didn’t cover the letter from the AAAS and seventeen other leading scientific organizations to members of the U.S. Senate late last year. Let’s explain about why we are concerned that The Times didn’t cover the great recent letters and reports from the NAS and others a couple months back. Let’s explain why we are concerned that The Times hasn’t prominently summarized, on the front page, the fact that all leading bona fide scientific organizations agree with the deeply problematic reality of climate change. Let’s explain, factually and with examples, why we are concerned that The Times doesn’t offer the public a straightforward fact-based understanding of ExxonMobil even as The Times uses front-page real estate to run ExxonMobil’s confusing and very often entirely misleading advertorials.

    In my view, another person shouldn’t step into that role without hearing about such concerns from Day One, from many sources, from highly credibly sources, from prominent sources, and so forth.

    The Times is dropping the ball. The new person in that role should HEAR ABOUT IT, loudly. Period.

    I would be happy to help with a fact-based assessment of The Times’ coverage, drawing from my observations and concrete examples over the last several years.

    I would also ask — and (here) do ask — Curtis Brainard (and CJR) to make their assessments of The Times’ coverage of climate change clear, at this vitally important juncture. Please, for the occasion of the arrival of a new Public Editor, or well before then if The Times takes it slow in naming someone (have they yet?), state your fact-based assessment of the degree to which The Times has lived up to covering matters in a way that is genuinely “in the public good” and that genuinely provides understanding to the public sufficient for the public to make informed decisions to achieve its own good. How well is The Times living up to standards that have been voiced and suggested by Thomas Jefferson, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and etc. etc. etc., having to do with the vital importance of an informed, responsible, and effective media in a democracy? Yes, I said “effective”! The ultimate measure of effectiveness is public understanding and responsible action, not how many words are printed on page 19!

    Please, CJR and The Observatory, do not use a wrong-headed measuring stick along the lines of “media organization A is doing better than media organizations B, C, and D, so ‘bravo’ to A.” That is, of course, on issues as important as climate change, an entirely wrong measuring stick that will only perpetuate the problem and is harmful in and of itself, for doing so.

    Instead, step up to the plate. Get real. Assess. And provide clear criticism where it is genuinely warranted (although you’ll have to prioritize, because A LOT of it is warranted).

    As many know, and as many of us have been doing, I’ve been following climate change closely for years now, and a great deal of what I’ve been following is the media’s coverage of the matter. Long ago, I once worked in the oil industry, and I have very deep concerns about how ExxonMobil and the rest of the industry are “behaving”, if you can call it that. But, over the last year or so, I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion that the larger problem involves the media, and The New York Times is front-and-center in that problem and in perpetuating it. After all, if the media were doing a much better job on climate change and the related energy problems, and solutions, then there would be MUCH more public pressure on the companies and politicians who are trying to confuse matters and block progress. The media are a BIG problem on this issue.

    Indeed, it could well be that the most important (and presently problematic) roles in the entire country regarding climate change are those of Bill Keller, Rupert Murdoch, The Times’ Public Editor, and a few other media chieftains. It could be the case — and probably is the case — that those folks are doing more damage to democracy and to our ability to face and address climate change than all the CEOs of the oil and coal companies added together. No joke. Why? Because in a democracy, the key criteria of success involve a responsibly informed public, period. Success won’t be achieved if someone thinks that an irresponsibly informed and overly politicized public is what’s needed. And that’s just what we are getting from our “modern media”: an irresponsibly informed and overly politicized public. Will anyone disagree? Well then, what’s the solution?

    From my own experience, I give Clark Hoyt an “F”. I’d like to be able to give the new Public Editor an “A-plus”, but I don’t think that will come easy. I think that we should make sure that the new Public Editor gets a positive, fact-based, welcoming, clear, message of encouragement as she or he sits down for the first time, in the new office, on the same day that she/he is shown where the coffee and rest rooms are.

    Be Well,


  6. john atcheson says:

    The last NYT public editor — Daniel Okrent — accused Paul Krugman of cooking the numbers in his parting shot. Investigations showed Krugman did not — it was simply that Okrent’s attempt to discredit someone who did not subscribe to his own conservative view of economics.

    The NYT needs to stop hiring ideologues to police its paper, plain and simple.

  7. Since Global Warming is the #1 story of this century, and the NY Times has missed it, they and most of the media are to blame for the stupid and shameful way our politicians are avoiding appropriate legislation to stop CO2 emissions. The public does not know about global warming because they don’t talk to scientists; instead they listen to and read our media.

    The Times today has a story about how cap and trade has little chance in the senate. It would be great to cap the senate’s stupidity and trade them in for better ones! Are we and our progeny doomed? Not if we can mount a powerful counterattack. It may require demonstrations in the street, more videos on the internet, and Obama on TV every week warning about global warming.

  8. prokaryote says:

    “The Times today has a story about how cap and trade has little chance in the senate. It would be great to cap the senate’s stupidity and trade them in for better ones! ”

    I think this is a positive development – IF they introduce the carbon tax instead. ( I did not read the article you note).

    U.S. Northeast Carbon Permits Draw Record Low Price

    Carbon trading fraudsters steal permits worth £2.7m in ‘phishing’ scam

  9. Chris Winter says:

    John Mashey wrote: “If people remember Kristen Byrnes, a 15-year-old who “disproved” AGW a few years ago, this does a trend analysis of the two cases – about 2016, an unborn baby will disprove AGW.”

    Her site was “Ponder the Maunder”, I believe. IIRC, it was taken over by some right-wing group.

    I can’t help but wonder: If that trend analysis proves out, will the infant receive his or her Nobel before or after birth? ;-)

  10. Jeff Huggins says:

    Can We Get a Philosophy?

    Remember that great song, “Can I Get A Witness”, from the early 60s but that many of us still remember today?

    Well, I think we need to ask The New York Times, can we get a philosophy?

    In other words, would The New York Times please tell us, and clarify for us, i.e., for the public, what its philosophy of journalism is — in terms that make it crystal clear how the philosophy relates to effectively enabling and arming the public with valid understanding in order that the public has plenty of understanding to achieve its own good?

    Just to be clear . . .

    The idea of being “the newspaper of record” is not such a philosophy. It says virtually nothing about the question just raised.

    The aim or goal of being “the best newspaper” is not such a philosophy. It says virtually nothing about the question just raised, especially since it doesn’t even begin to define the term “best”, nor does it adopt the only important measuring-stick: The goal ought to be to convey understanding effectively, to the public, sufficient for the public to achieve “the public good”, which is not the same as the relativistic measure of being “the best” of a poor pack.

    The line “all the news that’s fit to print” is not such a philosophy either. That line does not answer the question, especially since the terms ‘news’ and ‘fit’ are entirely ambiguous in the face of the important question mentioned above.

    So, I think we should ask The New York Times to state and clarify its philosophy!!

    Now, if the question is not clear to The Times (which would worry me in and of itself), I and we can make it more clear by providing a few more paragraphs of explanation and providing some quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Edward R. Murrow, John F. Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, and (who else would you like)?

    In an earlier memo that I sent to Andy Revkin, to Curtis Brainard, and (just for his info) to Joe, I included some of those quotes as well as plentiful explanation. But, I’d be happy to provide the quotes and a brief explanation here.

    The New York Times should convey its philosophy, to the public, so we can all understand what The Times thinks it is trying to achieve. Indeed, also, how does a “Public Editor” know what to critique, or how to do her/his own job, if The New York Times’ philosophy is not clear and/or if the Public Editor’s own philosophy of journalism, and of the role of journalism, is not clear?

    Indeed, I’d also be very interested to hear what Curtis Brainard and CJR think that The New York Times’ philosophy and aim ought to be? It’s not clear to me, anymore, whether the CJR (or major schools of journalism) are clear on their own philosophies of journalism as they relate specifically to the question raised above, which is the centrally important question.

    To The New York Times: Can we get a philosophy?

    (and again, please let me know if you don’t understand the question) . . .

    Be Well,


  11. Edward says:

    Everybody DO THIS RUGHT NOW: Go to
    and make a comment on the article in the NYT itself. Commenting here is preaching to the choir. Commenting on Clark Hoyt’s column is preaching to the sinner.

  12. John Mashey says:

    re: #9 Chris

    re: taken over by right-wing group…

    Actually not. It is unclear if this ever actually was a high-school project, but it is certainly clear that it was driven hard by her stepfather (? if he actually married Kristen’s mother). Much of Ponder the Maunder had a hard edge one might not expect from a 15/16-year-old girl, and the same style continued after Kristen quit the effort. It is unclear how much money came in to the “Kristen Byrnes Science Foundation.”
    Moral: if you want to have an untouchable front person, a 15-year-old girl is hard to beat … unless it’s a 10-year-old.

    But do check Zeke’s chart, as that has lasting value.

  13. Leland Palmer says:

    Carl Bernstein: The CIA and the Media:

  14. Leland Palmer says:

    Quoting from the above:

    The New York Times — The Agency’s relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials. [It was] general Times policy … to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.

    … CIA officials cite two reasons why the Agency’s working relationship with the Times was closer and more extensive than with any other paper: the fact that the Times maintained the largest foreign news operation in American daily journalism; and the close personal ties between the men who ran both institutions … .

  15. Leland Palmer says:

    During the Bush administration, the relationship between the CIA and the NYT and other major news outlets including Fox went way beyond a few foreign stringers, IMO. During the Bush Administration, we were effectively dealing with a controlled press, IMO.

    The dreadful Times coverage of our destabilizing climate is only a small part of their dreadful coverage, which significantly diverges from reality in many instances. Their cheer leading of our invasion of Iraq and the Middle East, for example, and their coverage of the Weapons of Mass Destruction story come to mind.

    The bias seems to be systematic, IMO. Whatever benefits the oil corporations, is reflected in the Times coverage, IMO.