Top Papers Assign Golf, Baseball, And Culture Writers To The Climate Policy Beat

In case anyone is wondering whether the news industry is doomed, a few data points:

— The New York Times Magazine is publishing an 8,000-word cover article on climate denier Freeman Dyson written by Nicholas Dawidoff, a baseball writer.

— The New Yorker’s lead ‘Talk of the Town’ piece on the economy and global warming is written by David Owen, a golf journalist.

— The Wall Street Journal’s “deputy Taste editor,” Naomi Schaeffer Riley, criticizes a groundbreaking Redefining Progress report on the demographics of environmental and economic inequality as “oddly conspiratorial” and “condescension.”


Environmental economist Jim Barrett, chairman of Redefining Progress, tells the Wonk Room:

Good grief. Let’s all start writing blog posts about what a crappy golf course Pebble Beach is, how steroids are good for baseball, and why white shoes are just fine after labor day. Don’t feel constrained by your lack of knowledge of the facts. No one else seems to.

Perhaps these papers are hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Atlantic and Newsweek, who publish football pundit Gregg Easterbrook as an energy expert. Their choice of assigning clearly uninformed culture writers to deal with complex scientific issues and economic policy is unfortunate, since so many qualified science and economic journalists — from Chris Mooney to Elizabeth Kolbert, Jeff Fleck to Kate Sheppard, Ken Ward, Jr. to Keith Johnson — are out there.


Responses to David Owen, from Climate Progress’s Joe Romm, Gristmill’s Ryan Avent, and Get Energy Smart’s A. Siegel.


,The Way Things Break tweets about Dawidoff:

@nytimes @nytimesscience Wow, how embarrassing. What’s next, an obsequious 8-pager on Kary Mullis’ HIV-AIDS skepticism?


,I want to make clear that I definitely support more generalists writing about climate policy. But their editors should not accept misinformed dreck. Journalists need to step up their game, broaden their knowledge base, and research and discern between critical thinking and knee-jerk contrarianism.