Exclusive audio: Sunday Times tells Simon Lewis, “it has been recognised that the story was flawed”

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"Exclusive audio: Sunday Times tells Simon Lewis, “it has been recognised that the story was flawed”"

Forestry experty asks paper to take down IPCC/Amazon story

Yesterday I reported that tropical forest researcher Simon Lewis had filed a 31-page official complaint against the UK’s Sunday Times.   He made a compelling case that Jonathan Leake’s January 31 story “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim” was “inaccurate, misleading and distorted.”

Now he has sent me an audio file taken from a message left on his answering machine by the Sunday Times.  He also sent a statement explaining why that message is “odd,” and why he rejects their offer to finally publish his letter.

UPDATE:  A reader (!) cleaned the audio up, so you can hear that it is from the Sunday Times letters editor who, following talks  with “the associate editor,” offered to print the letter Lewis wrote immediately after the article was published nearly two months (!) ago.  Then she says “… it has been recognised that the story was flawed.”  Here is Lewis’s statement:

Yesterday evening someone from the Sunday Times left an answerphone message at work. Out of the blue they asked if I will agree that the letter I wrote to them seven weeks ago can now be published. More importantly they now accept that the story they published is “flawed”.

This is odd for two reasons. First, following a previous communication this week with Jonathan Leake, I had already told the Sunday Times by email that, now that the Press Complaints Commission investigation is underway, all communication about this matter should be done through the PCC. Second, I won’t accept this new offer of a letter being published, as then there would be a “flawed” article that I am associated with on their website.   It’s the fact that it creates the appearance that I told one thing to the Sunday Times and another to the BBC that is one of my major concerns, as it looks like I told two different versions of what scientists know about the Amazon and climate change to two different news outlets, which is not true.

It seems to me that the “flawed” article ought to now be taken down from their website and a public apology issued in its place (or let the PCC investigation run its course).

I agree that this is no time for yet another uber-lame, after-the-fact correction/letter on a dreadful piece of disinformation that has ricocheted through the media and blogosphere, disinformation that has probably been seen by well over 10 times as many people as would ever see the correction or letter.

The Sunday Times should simply take the piece down and issue a retraction and apology.  At the very least, now that they have admitted the story is “flawed,” they should take the piece down until the PCC issues its ruling.

How exactly can a newspaper criticize the IPCC for unintentionally making a slightly flawed statement — if it is unwilling to own up to its own far more deeply flawed statements — statements that Lewis has shown the newspaper knew were extremely misleading when they made them?

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8 Responses to Exclusive audio: Sunday Times tells Simon Lewis, “it has been recognised that the story was flawed”

  1. prokaryote says:

    The ST should post accurate science article and for compensation/damage pay money to conserve the amazon.

  2. Leif says:

    Perhaps even commit to accurate articles in the future like a responsible press in the first place and live up to its obligation to humanity.

  3. Jonah says:

    I cleaned up the audio by adding some gain, removing much of the noise, and taking out the listener’s breathing. If you want, grab it from http://public.me.com/skrap

  4. MapleLeaf says:

    Good to hear that Dr. Lewis is playing tough on this…he will have to be.

    In the meantime Jonathan Leak continues to distort at will:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/leakegate_leake_caught_cherry.php

    It is clear that Leake has an agenda and is anything but impartial.

  5. Stephen Watson says:

    The media as a whole are certainly not impartial and have an agenda that suits big business and the status quo because that’s exactly what they are.

    Have a look here and gasp: http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/070206_in_the_spirit.php

    ‘Balanced’ journalism. What’s that?

  6. MapleLeaf says:

    Why only 5 hits on this story. Dr. Lewis is making an incredibly important statement and likely at great personal cost (e.g., time, stress, disrupting family life, disrupting research).

    I’m disappointed that more people have not posted on this, maybe it needs to be moved to the top of the page again.

  7. Jim Eager says:

    MP, I’ve posted links to this story on several other blogs I monitor. I’m also perplexed why this hasn’t generated more traffic.

  8. Dan B says:

    It’s concerning that there isn’t more interest in this story but human nature is “nature”, we like outcomes, spectacular triumphs, and spectacle in general more than the process of resolution.

    If Simon Lewis made a public show, perhaps burning several logs in front of the ST, and the police were called by the ST, there would be a huge pickup in the blogosphere. Perhaps a better route is to parade with a giant poster, carried by several outraged climate scientists, of the Amazon burning. Text: Sunday Times’ pants on fire!