Thursday, October 13, 2005

Seattle Times' follow through is lacking

Last Sunday I praised the Seattle Times for their article on global warming. In that post I wrote the following:

So, why does the media put the so-called skeptics on the air and in print? Why mislead the public? I think it boils down to most journalists not knowing which side to believe, so they offer balance. Balance is a tendency in journalists to attempt to show a lack of bias in coverage. However, when the so-called balance is filled with deceit, where does good journalistic investigation and ethics come in? Sandi Doughton, author of the Times article, did her research. She spent time learning about the subject and understanding it. She was then able to report on how overwhelming the research is and on the source of the skeptics and their false arguments. She frames the issues well. Why don't other media outlets do the same? Why don't they spend the time and money investigating the issue and applying good ethical standards by correcting the record when the liars are deceiving the public? Do the interests in "balance" trump the interests in "ethics" and disseminating accurate, factual information?

Imagine my dismay today when I read a piece about global warming in the Seattle Times (a re-print of an article from The Washington Post) and they quote one of the very people Ms. Doughton exposed as a corporate energy funded "skeptic". Indeed, Ms. Doughton even published scientists who debunked the claims made by the "skeptic" in both articles. From today's article, Climate data hint at record hot 2005:

But one skeptic, state climatologist George Taylor of Oregon, said it is difficult to determine an accurate global average temperature, especially since there are not enough stations recording ocean temperatures.

"I just don't trust it," Taylor said of the new calculation, noting that Goddard's findings are "mighty preliminary."

From the original article on global warming penned by Ms. Doughton:

Oregon State Climatologist George Taylor is a featured author on the Web site Tech Central Station, funded by Exxon and other corporations and described as the place where "free markets meet technology."

He has a master's degree in meteorology and runs a state office based at Oregon State University that compiles weather data and supplies it to policy- makers, farmers and other customers.

Taylor is not a member of OSU's academic faculty and has no published research on Arctic climate, but Sen. Inhofe cited Taylor's claim that Arctic temperatures were much warmer in the 1930s as proof global warming is bogus.

James Overland, a Seattle-based oceanographer who has studied the Arctic for nearly 40 years, analyzed temperatures across a wider area than Taylor. His conclusion: The 1930s were warm — but the 1990s were warmer. Two other peer-reviewed analyses agree.

Even more significant, Overland found the 1930s warming was typical of natural climate variation: Siberia might be warm one year and normal the next, while another part of the Arctic experienced unusual heat. Now there's persistent warming everywhere.

Taylor said in an e-mail that Tech Central Station paid him $500 for global-warming articles. United for Jobs, an industry coalition that opposes higher fuel-efficiency standards and greenhouse-gas limits, also paid Taylor and a co-author $4,000 for an article published on Tech Central Station.

The emphasis is my own; not that of The Seattle Times. Once again, by giving this bought and paid for skeptic equal time without mentioning his energy corporation funding or his lack of peer review, the Seattle Times has participated in perpetuating to the public the view that the debate is 50-50 and not 99-1 in favor of global warming (to use Ms. Doughton's words). Granted, the Seattle Times did not write this new article. But they did re-print it without the proper editorial oversight. In that, the Times failed on it's follow through of it's fine original piece of journalism. It allowed "balance" to triumph over editing and/or ethics and that's a shame. I have written to both Ms. Doughton and executive editor Michael Fancher (since he posted an editorial on the global warming piece, touting it as top notch journalism - as he should) about this. If I hear a reply, then I will definitely report back on it in this space.

No comments: