The NYT‘s Elisabeth Rosenthal had another front-page “teach the controversy” piece yesterday, “Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons.” That has apparently become a specialty of the one-time paper of record (see NYT faces credibility siege over unbalanced climate coverage and The NYT once again equates non-scientists “” Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) “” with climate scientists).
It is well known in both sociology and communications that public opinion is largely shaped by media coverage. So the shift in public opinion about climate change is linked to the nature of mainstream media coverage of the so-called “climategate scandal.”
Several media researchers have documented the persistent bias in main stream media.
(See the links to the AAAS presentations of Max Boykoff and William Freudenberg).
- Boykoff on “Exaggerating Denialism: Media Representations of Outlier Views on Climate Change”: Freudenburg: “Reporters need to learn that, if they wish to discuss ‘both sides’ of the climate issue, the scientifically legitimate “other side” is that, if anything, global climate disruption is likely to be significantly worse than has been suggested in scientific consensus estimates to date.”
- AAAS: Understanding Climate-Change Skepticism: Its Sources and Strategies
- Professor bothered by “stunning lack” of balance in U.S. media reports on climate science
- Translating science
Other links from FAIR;
- Media regress to the bad old days of false balance
- NYT Cools on Global Warming Realities
- Media amplify climate change skeptics
Yet none of these independent analyses are noted in the article by Ms. Rosenthal. Acknowledging the media’s role in facilitating the public relations aims of the climate denialists strikes too close to home for the NY Times to cover. The aim of the climate denialists public relations campaign is to spread confusion and doubt about climate change. They have been very successful, aided by, what Dr. Boykoff noted as the exaggeration of outliers and a false sense of balance:
“Such claims are amplified when traditional news media position noncredible contrarian sources against those with scientific data, in a failed effort to represent opposing sides.”
The article by Ms. Rosenthal ends with the observation that “The public is left to struggle with the salvos between the two sides.” Why is this the case? Because the media has abdicated its duty to inform the public under a misguided notion of providing “balance” between science and nonsense.
The NY Times doesn’t need to go to European conferences to find out why public opinion on climate change has shifted. They can save the carbon emissions of the trip. Just look in the mirror.
I would add that the British media is arguably now worse than the American media on this issue:
- RoseGate becomes DailyMailGate: Error-riddled articles and false statements destroy Daily Mail’s credibility
- BBC asks CRU’s Phil Jones the climate version of “When did you stop beating your wife.”
- Exclusive: Forest scientist fights back against ‘distorted’ UK article on Amazon and IPCC
- DelingpoleGate: Monbiot slams anti-science columnist for leading “Telegraph into vicious climate over email”
Rosenthal herself notes in the article:
In March, Simon L. Lewis, an expert on rain forests at the University of Leeds in Britain, filed a 30-page complaint with the nation’s Press Complaints Commission against The Times of London, accusing it of publishing “inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” about climate change, his own research and remarks he had made to a reporter.
“I was most annoyed that there seemed to be a pattern of pushing the idea that there were a number of serious mistakes in the I.P.C.C. report, when most were fairly innocuous, or not mistakes at all,” said Dr. Lewis, referring to the report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
On top of that, the “British winter was the coldest for 31 years.” We have had enough warming now that people are surprised by coolish winters, so it’s no surprise that over a short period of time, it will impact public opinion, even when that winter isn’t actually close to record breaking. Stanford communications expert Jon Krosnick notes that “One factor that can influence opinion is the perception of local changes in the weather” (see “One more reason that recent U.S. polling on global warming is down slightly“).
As long as the NYT diverts so much of its scarce front-page coverage on climate to articles like this one, the prospects remain poor that the public will become informed on the actual state of the science.
- 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 goes to “¦
- Signs of global warming are everywhere, but if the New York Times can’t tell the story (twice!), how will the public hear it?
- MacCracken: The New York Times quote did not represent my views, and it did not even represent the reporter’s attempt to portray my comments
- The New York Times sells its integrity to ExxonMobil with front-page ad that falsely asserts “Today’s car has 95% fewer emissions than a car from 1970″³
- Anti-science idealogues spin the NY Times public editor, Clark Hoyt, on “Climategate”