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Time for a Blogger Ethics Panel

By Matthew Yglesias on February 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm

"Time for a Blogger Ethics Panel"

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It turns out that beyond his serious distortions regarded the alleged “global cooling” scare of the 1970s, George Will’s latest climate change denialist article contained some very clear-cut factual errors. He said that the Arctic Climate Research Center had found that global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979, but that group disagrees with Will. Will also claimed that the World Meteorological Organization says there’s been no global warming over the past ten years, when in fact the WMO says no such thing. They say that 1998 was the hottest year on record, and also that the world is experiencing a warming trend. Zach Roth has been trying to get some kind of response to this out of Will or out of Fred Hiatt:

Will’s assistant told us that Will might get back to us later in the day to talk about the column. And Hiatt said he was too busy to talk about it just then, but that he’d try to respond to emailed questions. So we emailed him yesterday’s post, with several questions about the editing process, then followed up with another email late yesterday afternoon.

But still nothing from either of them, over twenty-four hours after the first contact was made. Nor has the online version of Will’s column been updated, even to reflect the fact that the ACRC has utterly disavowed the claim Will attributes to it.

We’re hearing that the Post’s editing process for opinion pieces is virtually non-existent. Maybe that makes sense in some cases — it certainly seems reasonable to give most columnists a freer hand than straight news reporters get. But it’s difficult to know for sure when the Post won’t talk about it. And that approach sure didn’t serve the paper well here.

I think Roth is being too-cute-by-half here. The point of giving columns to Will and Charles Krauthammer and now hiring Bill Kristol is to show that Fred Hiatt and The Washington Post believe that whatever random crap the conservative movement wants to make up on any given day will get a hearing in The Washington Post. They’re not interested in informing their audience, they’re interested in showing that they’ll bend over backwards to be fair to the right wing. Publishing error-free articles by movement icons serves that purpose, but publishing sloppy error-filled ones serves that purpose even better.

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