by Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts
The segment by reporter Spencer Michels — and an accompanying blog post of his interview with Watts 00 were part of the Monday NewsHour broadcast. Asked by Bud Ward, editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, about the segment, O’Brien said that it “reflects badly both on the program and, indirectly, on himself”:
That might raise the question: Why not use veteran science correspondent Miles O’Brien, who NewsHour brought in to cover complex science issues after he and the science staff had been let go by CNN? Climate change is an issue on which O’Brien has done substantial earlier coverage, and it’s a subject he says he is eager to continue reporting on.
There’s an answer to that question, actually. O’Brien said in a phone interview that he is a freelancer with a contract to do 15 science stories a year for NewsHour … specifically excluding climate science. “I’m not in the loop on climate stories,” O’Brien said, characterizing the recent NewsHour broadcast as “a horrible, horrible thing” that he fears reflects badly both on the program and, indirectly, on himself.
The Heartland Institute praised PBS for “attempting to bring balance to the debate over man-made global warming.” Science bloggers, media critics, and the general public have criticized the NewsHour segment as an egregious example of false balance, with the debunked conspiracy theories of Anthony Watts used to “counter” a Koch-funded study that affirms the scientific knowledge of manmade climate change. Scientists are portrayed by Michels as “believers,” as opposed to “skeptics” such as Watts.
The general public has spoken out as well, with over 15,000 people signing a Forecast the Facts petition to PBS ombudsman Michael Getler demanding an investigation of how this violation of PBS journalistic standards made it to broadcast.