Memo to status quo media: We get it, already. You have already written your “Copenhagen has failed” stories, and are just waiting for the flimsiest excuse to “scoop” everyone else. Your desperation to file this as-yet-unwritten story is unbecoming and also perverse, since, as I’ve argued, prospects for a global deal have never been better. Worse, it is leading to the most dreadful herd-journalism and misreporting imaginable. The following should be a cautionary tale.
Andy Revkin took the biggest “dog bites man” nonstory of the year — that Obama will not get a climate bill on his desk this year — and spun it into a major piece in the one-time paper of record, “Obama Aide Concedes Climate Law Must Wait” (online Friday, print Saturday).
How old is this supposed news? Well, my very first piece explaining that the torturous process — getting through all of the House committees, then the House floor, then all of the Senate committees, and then Senate floor, and then out of conference to merge the two chambers’ bills into one, and then through the House and Senate again — would not put a bill on Obama’s desk until 2010 was on Febuary 3, eight months ago (!) — “Breaking: Sen. Boxer makes clear U.S. won’t pass a climate bill this year.”
For the record, though, Obama’s aide didn’t “concede” anything, with the implication that she was forced to make some sort of damning newsworthy admission. In fact, Browner made this incredibly obvious statement almost as an aside at a confab put on by The Atlantic magazine. The Atlantic thought so little of the supposedly newsworthiness of Browner’s statement that they buried it in the middle of their article on her remarks, “Carol Browner: Now is the Time to Move on Climate.”
In the entire story, Revkin never bothers to explain that for many, many months now the only issue for those who follow DC climate politics has been whether the Senate would pass a climate bill before Copenhagen, not whether a final bill would get onto Obama’s desk before Copenhagen. I would note that his colleagues, John Broder and John Kanter, have written stories that are far clearer — and pointed out a while back that the issue was the timing of the Senate vote (see, for instance, this September 20th story).
The paper’s own editorial desk was so confused that in the print edition’s news summary table of contents on page A2, “Inside the Times,” the headline was, “Climate Bill Called Unlikely,” which would lead any reader just skimming, as most do, utterly misinformed.
But the true result of this bad reporting can be seen in the worst climate story of the week, by Suzanne Goldenberg today (Sunday), “US environment correspondent” for the UK Guardian, which apparently was even more desperate to file the first story that Copenhagen has failed and it’s all America’s fault: