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False Balance Lives: In Worst Climate Story Of The Year, PBS Channels Fox News

By Joe Romm on September 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

"False Balance Lives: In Worst Climate Story Of The Year, PBS Channels Fox News"

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If you happened to be watching the PBS News Hour tonight, you probably thought the show had been hijacked by Fox News. At first, their climate segment seemed to be about Koch-funded former “skeptic” Richard Muller and his conversion to scientific reality.

But then PBS decided that the way to “balance” a former skeptic who merely confirmed what climate scientists have demonstrated repeatedly for decades was by quoting nonsense from Sen. James Inhofe and then giving an extended interview to former TV weatherman and current A-list disinformer Anthony Watts.

UPDATE: For the video (and transcript) of the show, click here. It should forever kill the absurd notion that false balance is dead — or that the News Hour has some sort of liberal bias. Not that this is news — see the CP post from May, “False Balance On Climate Change at PBS NewsHour.”

Even worse is PBS’s completely unbalanced, extended interview online with the long-debunked Watts, headlined “Climate Change Skeptic Says Global Warming Crowd Oversells Its Message.”

The URL for that interview is even worse: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/09/why-the-global-warming-crowd-oversells-its-message.html. Seriously!

You can write the PBS ombudsman here.

UPDATE 2: PBS defends itself here, sort of. They do promise this: “Spencer will have another blog post today offering the views of other scientists in the broadcast concerned about the threats of climate change.” Uhh, “other scientists”? Now Watts is a scientist?

Again, the actual “news” in the on-air segment was about how a Koch-funded skeptic, Muller, had in fact demonstrated that the global warming crowd has been underselling its message.

Given the staggering laziness of PBS’s “journalism” in this segment, it’s worth quoting what Muller actually wrote in the NY Times:

Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.

In short, a Koch-funded study has found that the IPCC “consensus” underestimated both the rate of surface warming and how much could be attributed to human emissions!

Now this underselling could have been the basis of an interesting story, but PBS decided to turn this into a pure he-said/she-said between “skeptics” and “believers,” as they label the two “sides” —  destroying any possible chance of delivering actual scientific information to its audience.

Here is the video of the truly head-exploding interview with Watts:

Books could be written debunking Watts, but you’ll have to settle for – Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts and WattsUpWithThat urges readers to disrupt Forbes blog: “Shout them down in the comments section.”

My inbox has already overflowed with emails from climate scientists and others stunned by PBS’s lack of judgment.

The News Hour should look hard at what it is doing here and remember the golden rule of climate science journalism: If you want to write a golden story on climate science, spend your time talking to actual climate scientists.

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85 Responses to False Balance Lives: In Worst Climate Story Of The Year, PBS Channels Fox News

  1. Ozonator says:

    Gosh! I thought that it was Vain Romulan & Mo Ruin’s administration’s plan to move all the temperature sensors to the antarctic to prevent AGW via surrogate 5-Watts.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      PBS and NPR have been bad for a long time now. The Kochs were smart enough to throw millions of dollars at them.

      Jefferson said that democracy cannot function without a free press. Well, guess what: we don’t have one. Laziness and lack of judgment by reporters has nothing to do with it. If a reporter tells the truth, he is out of a job with the major outlets, and has to fire away on lightly read blogs.

      • I agree with that, Mike. When David Koch is a major funding source got NOVA you know that there will not be any “science” on that show that contradicts his interests.

        • Dick Smith says:

          Steve Horn wrote an article at desmogblog about PBS funding and climate change.

          His latest article below, is about pulling away the curtain behind the fossil fuel industry’s funding stream (Exxon, Koch, Chevron, etc.) that keeps PBS afloat, and picking apart the fact that PBS increasingly has to rely on this money because the U.S. government continues to slash funding for it on a bipartisan basis.

          It’s also important to note that the U.S. government spends $750,000/year in taxpayer largesse on psychological operations campaigns abroad vis-a-vis Voice of America, Radio Marti, et al, while it says it’s too “broke” to spend half that amount on radio and television in the public good here at home. It’s not just Republicans promoting this agenda, either, as Obama was perfectly willing to auction off NPR and PBS during his “Catfood Commission” budget talks in 2011, and could slice and dice it out of the U.S. budget after he’s elected as part of his budgetary “grand bargain” after he’s elected, sponsored by Wall Street friends like Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson and Peter Peterson.

          This will mean more disinformation and propaganda on our airwaves here at home, along with the continued financing of it abroad. Not good, to say the least.

          Please read and pass along. Cross-posts welcome, but please link back to DeSmogBlog.

          http://www.desmogblog.com/2012/09/18/petroleum-broadcasting-system-s-newshour-and-merchants-climate-doubt

          • Alex says:

            Something seems to have happened to the desmogblog site. It’s saying the name desmogblog.com was bought registered at namecheap.com. Somekind of denier hack trick? Anybody know?

      • Jan says:

        “While the First Amendment precludes an outright prohibition on the rhetoric of climate-change deniers, it’s increasingly obvious that America’s national conversation would be better off if these voices weren’t so unnaturally amplified. The anti-science statements of conservative politicians and their enablers in the media have helped to make reality-based environmental policies impossible to enact, even when a majority of Americans think they’re desirable. ” Anon

  2. dana1981 says:

    Glad to see our tax dollars are being used to give Anthony Watts a soapbox from which to misinform the American public.

    All I can say is – WTF PBS?

    You just have to love Watts criticizing Muller’s latest paper as not having passed peer review while the one peer-reviewed paper Watts himself has co-authored contradicted his own claims in this interview about the urban heat island effect. It’s just mind boggling.

    • jojo says:

      The problem is that from GWB on less and less of our tax dollars are going to PBS. By Gov’t defunding per GWB budget, a partisan hack apptmt to the head of CPB and Congressional opposition, a vacuum of $ was created. What the public fundraising drives could not replace has now been filled in by Corps and those $$ come with editorial strings attached.

  3. Steve O says:

    Anthony Watts is a “Meterologist,” whatever that is.
    (video at 0:20)

  4. Robert Nagle says:

    First, I’m sure your analysis is right on, and PBS shouldn’t have done the story in such a way.

    However, the Newshour’s coverage is MUCH much better than it was at little as a year ago.

    Back then, climate change stories were hardly ever covered, and really the only story was the BP oil spill. And then, it seemed the standard practice was to invite BP’s executive or press spokesman to do their professional and well-paid spin.

    At the time of BP, PBS didn’t need anyone from BP to bloviate. They needed experts to tell us what was really going on and how to fix things.

    Last year (I think) PBS lost Chevron as a sponsor (good riddance), but they still have BNSF Railway (which probably transports a lot of fossil fuels). I think there is a connection between losing Chevron and more frequent reporting about climate change.

    Personally I can live with the occasional lousy report about climate change so long as it mentioned more often…

    Another thing. PBS has a lot of guests with flawed perspectives. Many are politicians. What’s unusual about this particular instance is that Watts and Muller aren’t particularly crucial to the policy debate (in a way that Inhofe or Pielke might be said to be).

  5. Sasparilla says:

    Wow, that is just awful.

  6. Scott says:

    Reporter Michel is playing a stupid, dangerous game. He pretends he knows nothing about the issue and is there to learn from Watts. Then he asks knowledgeable questions later in the interview. It is par for the course condescension from PBS. For some reason they decided to do a Watts bugle-blow and this was it. The pretense of knowing nothing allowed Michel to avoid calling Watts on his already debunked talking points. It’s PBS’s smarmy condescension that always makes me change the channel. Their baby-talk reporting style must appeal to some part of their audience… they have done it for years now.

  7. P. B. S. OMG. Now THAT’S a conspiracy.

  8. Jane G. says:

    The most important part of the News Hour, to make sense of this, is probably the minute or two between the teaser and the show, when they thank their underwriters (who usually include Chevron and BP). And then of course there are the organized criminals on Capitol Hill. It’s scandalous.

  9. Joan Savage says:

    Let’s put some focus specifically on the PBS correspondent Spencer Michels. He himself used the term, “climate change believers,” not one of his interviewees. Given the common meaning of the word believer, as faith-based rather than fact-based, Michels has revealed a bias of his own. He stepped beyond the ‘balance’ convention of counterpoint interviews.

    Michels routinely reports from San Francisco, and claims to “hooked on California’s water” (“California Water: Old Song, New Lyrics” PBS News Hour, August 2, 2012). He neglects to mention that the California Department of Water Resources predicts that the snow pack that supplies San Francisco is expected to decline by 25% by 2050.

    It might overdue for him to retire from PBS.

  10. THIS is an especially egregious example of why a sort of ‘S.W.A.T.’ media team of climate story responders is needed. Anytime, anywhere a climate story is reported on with false equivalency, there needs to be a smooth, immediate and coordinated response: e.g.- in this case citizens and organizations, from an ever growing data base, would be contacted via email, Twitter, Reddit, etc that an immediate email/text/tweet/phone-call needs to be placed to PBS. This seems a really important piece of beginning to turn the tide of public perception. Given that this may be the most pivotal situation in the history of humanity…is there no way $200,000 or so can be provided for a non-profit start-up to get this done? Hell, I’ll do it as a full time job for $35,000. Seriously. Maybe funded by Gates or Soros or Clinton or…anybody with a lot of money and a sense of urgency. Really…it is ridiculous that this is mostly still being done in such piece-meal fashion.

  11. Worse, NEWSHOUR just demonstrated that they don’t have any interns or fact checkers to spend 5 mins on google to do minimal research.

    Even Wikipedia, in the Watts entry, notes that his thermometer fantasy was debunked years ago by solid data and science.

    What kind of propaganda machine is PBS running?

  12. Leif says:

    PBS embraces the DARK SIDE! Very sad and I told them so. Pile on…

  13. Sou says:

    Shorter Watts: “I accept climate science up to the point where it knocks heads with my ideology. In particular the science is wrong because of – tax, regulation, tax, regulation – did I mention tax? Oh, I have this theory that scientists and NGO’s are only in it for the money.”

    Idiot – he could hardly have provided better support for the Lewandowsky et al study he’s ranted about over multiple posts in the past couple of weeks.

  14. Bill Walker says:

    Isn’t Chevron a major sponsor of the NewsHour? Hmmm.

  15. I just posted this comment on the PBS site:
    Shame on you, PBS, for practicing false equivalency (1 non-scientist blogger vs. every national academy of science in the world, almost every climate scientist…and the Pentagon!). I am very, very disappointed. I want an apology, otherwise I will no longer support or watch PBS. I feel that strongly.
    David Goldstein

  16. Michael Tobis says:

    A very sad moment in PBS history.

    I just want to note that there goes that “people who like regulation” idea again. Have you ever really encountered someone who proposes regulations for regulations’ sake?

    That explanation is simply crazy. People propose regulations to solve problems. Sometimes the regulations misfire or backfire. Getting them right is hard. Nobody wants them for their own sake.

    • David Lewis says:

      When Chris Mooney interviewed Kerry Emanuel for his Point of Inquiry show, Emanuel said this:

      “I think that the left, at least the extreme left part of the Democratic Party, has an agenda, they’ve always had an agenda, and some of them see the global warming issue as a means of advancing that agenda – and its for more control by the government, and more regulation….”

      • Joe Romm says:

        I’ve never met anyone on the “left” who thought that. Not one. If the science didn’t demand action, the “left” would pursue other more salient issues — as would I.

        • David Lewis says:

          Mooney introduced Emanuel for Point of Inquiry podcast listeners in this way:

          “Kerry Emanuel is a leading atmospheric scientist and a self-described conservative. As a result, lately he’s been at the forefront of trying to convince his ideological brethren that the science behind global warming is real”.

          I put Emanuel’s remarks on regulation up under the remark by Tobis to give an illustration of who holds the belief Tobis was calling “crazy”.

          Emanuel told Mooney during the interview he no longer views himself as a Republican. His book, “Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes” is worth a read.

          I can understand an analysis of Republican politics which would accuse its backers of being interested only in lowering their own taxes no matter what the consequences are for anyone else or for the country, because of all the evidence – they cut taxes while engaging in two wars. Cheney even proudly announced that Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.

          On the other hand, what evidence supports this idea that the left wants regulation for regulation’s sake? Perhaps Mooney will put this question to Emanuel one day. Mooney seemed so relieved to be talking to a self described conservative who accepted that global warming is real he was pitching softballs…. (the full Mooney interview of Emanuel is available here)

  17. jyyh says:

    sent a letter suggesting renaming the ‘news hour’ to something else. Glad that I do not live in US.

  18. Mary Ratcliff says:

    I just sent this complaint to my local station and the equivalent to the News Hour:
    —-

    As a long time supporter of OPB and Public Broadcasting, I am writing today to complain about the pitiful way the PBS News Hour handled the story on Climate Change. To balance the research that Dr. Mueller did showing that human emissions were warming the climate even more than was reported in the IPCC with climate change denier, Anthony Watts, is a disservice to the American public and indeed to the world. What credibility does Mr. Watts bring to the topic of climate change? Would PBS have put Orly Taliz to balance the story from the Hawaiian government that Obama wasn’t born in the USA?

    Please convey my deep disgust to the PBS New Hour crew for their dishonest and despicable choice of picking a climate change denier to “balance” their story. Evidently the greatest challenge humanity faces is due little if any consideration.

    Mary Ratcliff

  19. Douglas says:

    Well Nova has gone downhill ever since they started accepting Koch funding. Maybe the Newshour has decided to get in on the action?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Sad sight was a Koch acknowledging plaque in the Uffizi Gallery. Next time the Arno goes feral after a savage deluge, they might regret taking the devils’ coin.

  20. John Mashey says:

    This is SPencer Michels. Very strange background to be doing this.

    Of course, there’s alwasys Napoleon’s advice on malice and incompetence.

  21. BillD says:

    As a regular viewer of the News Hour, I was excited when they announced a segment on Climate science. Starting with Muller and then to Watts, I could not believe that the segment was showing on PBS. Thanks for giving the link to provide them with feedback. I already wrote them a “nice” letter before reading the comments here.

  22. prokaryotes says:

    I think it is good in a way to have these paid mouthpieces of fossil fuel on record for their already debunked claims.

    Actually i think it is enough falsification here of the science by Watts’s to put him on trial for a crime against humanity.

  23. Quentin Prideaux says:

    What I posted to the ombudsman:

    I am horrified that you presented a false-balance view of climate change. How about a show that presents ‘both sides’ of Dredd Scott? Americans have been severely misinformed by Watts and a few other fact-free ideologues. All the national science bodies in the world, The Pentagon, NSA, NAS, NASA, CIA, FBI, EPA, IBM, GE and Coca Cola know that we’re warming the planet. You think Watts is about to get the Nobel Prize in Physics for proving them ALL wrong? When he has no data, no models, no theory? Until you do you should not spread his enormously damaging lies. This was a terrible disservice to your viewers. Do an expose of the deniers if you must, but don’t ‘debate’ the laws of physics and give cover to the people who are destroying our entire planet.

  24. John McCormick says:

    When Dr. Hansen testified before the US COngress in 1988 the serious work on climate change ab atemetn began. Look at wahere we are now…almost 25 years later MegaWatts is the lead witness on PBS in the trial against Dr. Hansen.

    Rommoney and the rethugs have the means and voting restriction rules making them capable of stealing the election from President Obama….and life goes on.

    That leaves us to bitch about “unbalanced PBS”.

    Fred Krupp, EDF, recently took a $6 million grant from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to study regulation of fracking. Help is on the way. Gotta be patient.

  25. John McCormick says:

    RE # 24

    I apologize for the numerous typos. I am a bit riled.

  26. Joan Savage says:

    Spencer Michels is a journalist’s version of bald tire, running on old information, slipping up, and apparently unwilling to brake himself.

    PBS didn’t persuade him to retire (pun intended) before he slid off the road and brought embarrassment to PBS.

    • John McCormick says:

      Joan, lets give some credit to the editorial board. They had a hand in programming the piece.

      • Joan Savage says:

        Of course!

        I told PBS they need a better climate change researcher for the News Hour.

        The editorial board is likely to fail again and again, as it did with Michels, until it gets the facts straight.

        • Mike Roddy says:

          We have to think about why someone like Michels has a job, and Margot Roosevelt, the fine LA times environmental reporter, got fired. They want fools talking about climate.

  27. Hank Brice says:

    Absolutely. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

    I sent the following to PBS:

    “That story Spencer Michaels did was absolutely disgusting.

    To give that much credibility to a guy whose response to the thousands of climate scientists out there was essentially, “the thermometers are too close to buildings” was simply horrifying. I’m no climate scientist, but a few things jumped immediately to mind: How does that explain the Arctic sea ice retreat? The permafrost melting? The sea temperatures? And worst of all, the ever-increasing PPM of carbon in the atmosphere. Did anyone on the incompetent PBS staff even think to ask these rather obvious questions?

    I’m simply disgusted by PBS and Spencer Michaels and anyone else who had anything to do with that story.

    My (rather substantial so far) contributions to PBS have stopped until you do something to counter this horrible, horrible bit of malfeasance.

    It is the future of civilization we’re talking about. How dare you not handle it so unbelievably incompetently?”

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      As Upton Sinclair observed, ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on him not understanding it’. Or, slightly amended for MSM presstitutes, it is hard to get them to speak the truth when that act will get them fired.

  28. kca says:

    My note to the PBS ombud: “I must protest PBS giving air time on The Newshour to global warming denier Anthony Watts. The man is an energy industry shill selling anti-science. To give him the floor would be like running a piece on the health effects of smoking tobacco then giving air time to an tobacco company spokesman who claims that there is no hard evidence that smoking causes cancer and heart disease. To include Watts in the discussion of global warming is not to offer your viewership balance but merely to enable a con artist. It’s an embarrassment to your network.”

  29. caerbannog says:

    I was curious about Michels’ background, so I googled him up. It turns out that he lives in Marin County (not exactly denier country). I would imagine that he’s been getting quite an earful from his friends and neighbors.

    I also submitted a comment to the discussion thread below that PBS puff-piece yesterday. It’s still stuck in the moderation queue, and no new comments have appeared since yesterday evening. I suspect that the discussion thread moderator is rather overwhelmed at this point.

  30. I just wrote the PBS ombudsman, and I urge everyone reading to do so also. Be polite, of course, but they need to hear from people who know what they’re talking about.

  31. Eric Adler says:

    In addition to writing the Ombudsman, it would be good to post rebuttals on the PBS website, where the hapless Spencer Michaels’ interview was posted.

  32. BillD says:

    It’s so crazy. Both Muller and Watts seem to think that evidence for climate change comes only from the human temperature record. Lake ice and sea ice are declining rapidly. Thousands of studies document changes in the altitinal and geographic distributions of animals and plants and in the timing of flowering, migration and breeding. Today on Dianne Reems, I learned that an invasive crab is moving into antarctic waters and is a big threat to molluscs and other invertebrates that evolved in the absence of such a predator. Warming of the antarctic is strongly affecting marine life. So, the bottom line for Watts is that universities and scientists are in it for the grant money. As someone who has had NSF funding and who will work on reviewing an NSF grant proposal this afternoon, I can assure everyone that Watts’ suggestion is ludicrous.

  33. Quick Update: PBS News Hour has just put out a response/explanation to all the emails they received in protest, here is the url: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/09/keeping-climate-stories-in-context.html

    Please go there-they just do not get it! Still justifying using Watts by pointing to other climate pieces they have done…as if putting on a doctor that still maintains smoking is not injurious to health in any way. Go and comment again!- until they understand.

  34. Just posted this comment to the above url (comment #32): Firstly, thank you for your response. Secondly, if possible, I am even more deeply disappointed in you and in PBS than before. Here is the segment’s beginning: “Let’s start with the basic idea that there’s this debate in this country over global warming: some people who call it a complete hoax and some embrace it.” Wow. Yes. This is true and very, very unfortunate. And…you are asking someone who has NO credentials, NONE, to speak on a topic that- according to the overwhelming scientific consensus- is an impending existential threat (if unaddressed) to modern human civilization. And so your viewers see a meteorologist- NOT a scientist, certainly not a climate scientist- whose contentions about inaccurate measurements have been repeatedly discredited- ‘presenting’ the case that ‘it is not that bad’ and that plenty are making money in the name of AGW. A- It is, in my opinion, terrible journalism to even imply that Watts is somehow a qualified and credible ‘rebutalist’. B- On an ethical level this is somewhat akin to having a doctor of chiropractor who is being paid by the tobacco industry (Watts has acknowledged being paid by Heartland Institute) to claim that smoking tobacco is ‘not that bad’. You messed up on this one. Again, I will not be watching or contributing again to PBS until this is acknowledged.

  35. John Mashey says:

    If I understand correctly, many such shows are in effect proposed by folks like Michels, who act a bit like independent entrepreneurs. He was clearly out of his turf on this one (and Napoleon’s advice always has to be considered), but it is not yet clear where and how editorial control is exercised in the process at PBS. I.e., we have no idea what he proposed and what PBS expected.

    Quality control in big organizations is *always*~ an issue and takes work to maintain. Something broke down somewhere, but it is not yet clear where.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      No, no-forgive me, but this is balderdash. There is no ‘quality control’ in the MSM, including PBS, the ABC or BBC. What there is is ‘ideological control’ to ensure that the Rightwing narrative is totalitarian in its sweep, depth and ubiquity. This was no error, because climate destabilisation denialism is THE central ideological priority of the Right today, because admitting the truth and decarbonising as rapidly as possible would destroy the current parasite elite’s greatest source of wealth-fossil fuels.

  36. I hate to say this, but I seriously wonder if PBS isn’t just tending to it’s financing. They know where their bread is buttered and who their enemies in Congress are.

    Ipso facto, they seem to have bought into the false balance thing some years back. In fact, they make a show of it, bringing in “Senior Fellows” from the Heritage Foundation to yabber on about the economy, Obamacare and any topic where they can create the impression that they are allowing you to form your own opinion.

    Next it will be some guy talking about Creationism and Intelligent Design. “Evolutionists have overstated their case.” I’ve heard they are looking for someone to argue that the sun revolves around the flat earth. Anything to create the impression of “journalistic objectivity.”

    Gee, I wonder if I could get on PBS if I start a blog maintaining that the U.S. never landed on the moon — just faked the moon landing on a Nevada test site.

    • jyyh says:

      I’d like to hear a newshour proving the existence of Bigfoots, because it would show them to have more integrity and credibility than A.Watts who has forbidden (i.e. censored) free discussion on them. That might even be entertaining. But they probably would have a hard time finding a Bigoot researcher with the integrity of S.Michels who performed his duty as an actor perfectly, fooling even the producers of the show. I still don’t understand the word ‘news’ on the show title, since there is nothing new or newsworthy in this segment.

  37. dorlomin says:

    At 4:40 the wacky one declares Mullers papers have not passed peer review.

    Our favorite clown forgets his “paper” blew up in his face as the wheels came of clown car style just a few weeks ago.

  38. Now Mr. Michels has issued a tepid non-acknowledgement. Here it is, titled (get this!): ‘Climate Change From Different Perspectives’ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/09/climate-change-from-different-perspectives.html
    here’s my comment-

    Mr. Michels:
    “That said — and as many of you wrote us to complain — we should have not ONLY posted additional comments from Watts’ perspective”…Mr. Michels I am afraid, as far as I am concerned, you are badly missing the point of the many complaints. Mr. Watts has NO CREDIBILITY as a climate ‘skeptic’ except that…he is a climate skeptic. Perhaps Joe Smith a shoe salesman from Peoria is also a climate skeptic. But would you put him on your program as a counterpoint to climate scientists?
    1) Mr. Watts is not a climate scientist. 2)Mr. Watts is not a scientist period. 3)Mr. Watts has received payments from the Heartland Institute, an organization-funded by fossil fuel interests-whose mission is to create the appearance of debate where there is, in scientific terms, NO DEBATE. 4) Mr. Watts’ claims of improper and inaccurate temperature readings have been repeatedly debunked. You mentioned NONE of these things. And you gave him ‘equal time’ to repeated his debunked claims and imply the universities are ‘on the take’ because support of ‘the climate change’ story is rewarded. You messed up. His words, without any of the disclaimers good journalism would have mentioned at the top of the interview, went into thousands of possibly uninformed ears. I will no longer support or watch PBS until an apology and acknowledgment is issued.

  39. Allan says:

    Seems everyone is lighting their hair on fire on a very innocuous commentary. Last time I looked, America was a democratic country and everyone was free to express his or her opinion or held truths, no matter how inane. Trying to muzzle the conduit[PBS] scares me more then the content. The old chestnut, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”

    • skyman says:

      There’s nothing ‘innocuous’ about treating human kind’s gravest threat as a non-serious manner. Watts can express his excrement – and does – as freely as he wants on his blog. Public Broadcasting shouldn’t be a venue for nonsense, when there may be chance that we can mitigate the ongoing crisis.

    • I know a few folks-not medical doctors- who believe HIV does not

      • ..cause AIDS. Would it be responsible for PBS to have them on as a ‘counter-point’ to the medical establishment’s established science? This is not a free speech issue- Watts can peddle his gibberish if he so desires. PBS can also choose to portray him as a credible source. I can, in protest, choose to not patronize PBS if they do so. Free speech- and the exercise of free enterprise- all around.

    • Chris Winter says:

      Anthony Watts is perfectly free to express his opinion, and he has done so for the past several years on his blog — a blog that, oddly, was named the best science blog for at least one year.

      The problem here is that Watts was presented by PBS as a credible alternative to the mainstream view of climate science. He is not credible, and has lately even contradicted himself by backing off his pledge to support the conclusion of the BEST study when it turned out to support the reality of a global warming trend.

      Let him spout whatever views he wants on his own blog; he has that right. Viewers of the News Hour also have a right: the right to expect that scientific information presented there is valid.

  40. Tim says:

    My comment to the ombudsman:

    The decision to “balance” your report on climate chance with an interview with Anthony Watts represents one of the worst examples of science reporting I have ever seen on PBS – an unmitigated disgrace.

    Even Richard Muller represents a Johnny-come-very-lately to view that anthropogenic global warming is an extremely serious problem – a view already agreed upon by 98% of real scientists active in the field and endorsed by virtually every relevant scientific academy and organization in the developed world. Nevertheless, in interviewing Anthony Watts, PBS chose to air the views of a full-time propagandist weatherman with no relevant scientific credentials whatsoever who runs a disingenuous blog and regularly libels reputable scientists working in the field. You should be ashamed.

    What’s next? Is PBS going to interview Ken Ham, creator of the “creation science” museum in Kentucky that displays people frolicking with dinosaurs? Is that the way PBS will now “balance” its scientific reports on evolution and paleontology?

  41. jk says:

    Please comment on the NewsHour’s posted response to our comments: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/09/keeping-climate-stories-in-context.html
    (Caution: You’ll need your head vise for this one too–starting with the headline “Keeping Climate Stories in Context”) BTW, the link to the Watts story in the response will take you to YouTube–so much for the NewsHour’s pathetic claim to placing this in context. Disgraceful.

  42. jk says:

    After I posted my comment at 10:02 p.m., I realized JR had inserted Update 2 in the original report above. on an interesting note: Since his update, PBS has made a few alterations to its defense: (A) They added a strikethrough in one paragraph, striking out “other ” in the following sentence: “Spencer will have another blog post today offering the views of other scientists in the broadcast concerned about the threats of climate change.” and (B) they added a note at the end: “[PBS] Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post implied that Anthony Watts is a scientist. As we reported on the broadcast last night, he is not.” So (1) they knew he isn’t a scientist, but they still gave him a forum. (2) Even though some of them “knew” he wasn’t a scientist, their report gave him enough credibility that their apologist mistook him for one and had to be corrected.

  43. Eric Adler says:

    It may be legitimate to interview Watts if you are prepared to call him on his nonsense. That is my gripe against Michels.

    Michels did have the goods to do this. Michels knew about papers debunking Watts’ theories that the UHI and bad stations are falsely indicating global warming. Michels knew that Watts’ blog posts non peer reviewed work every day, yet he allows Watts to argue that Mueller, who is a real scientist, should not be allowed to explain his work prior to publication, unchallenged.

    The problem is that Michels doesn’t still hasn’t explained or apologized for his failure to make Watts justify his positions.

  44. Ozonator says:

    AM radio program, Coast to Coast with George Noory, does the same thing for the whole spittoon of deniers as the NewsHour did for Watts. George believes in ghosts but not AGW. They don’t say if it is an informercial, who is paying for the speaker, and cap and trade any balance through deleting negative comments as “not meeting community standards”. It is a great industry to sell books, websites, and other junk – but no winter clothes for the global cooling – if you are a denier. The only reduction in the AGW denier free lunch program that I have seen is the lack of Roy Spencer on Looter Limbaugh’s show and more Roy types on George tier media outfalls.

  45. Lady in Red says:

    I wrote to the PBS Ombudsman, as you suggested, and I was surprised, myself, that PBS would consider the opinion of Anthony Watts worthy.

    (Frankly, I was impressed.)

    Jane Jacobs has an prescient little book, “Dark Age Ahead” wherein one of the dangers she considers is the increasing tendency not to educate our population but merely to “credential” them.

    I don’t know what your definition of “scientist” is, but I would postulate that merely having slogged through X years of something does not a scientist make (as any good history of science survey book will attest). ….Lady in Red

    • melty says:

      Can you recommend a “good history of science survey book”?

      But you are right: slogging through X years of something does not a scientist make — but doing that to get your PhD, followed by 2 – 4 years or more of post-doc research; and then five years or more as an established researcher with many publications — that surely does qualify you. Right?