And the 2010 Citizen Kane award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to …
I think it’s pretty obvious who the winner will be this year. I have tried to be responsive to those who felt last year’s Citizen Kane award didn’t give enough weighting to the unprincipled bad actors, as opposed to those who are merely doing a bad job. As always, though, I welcome your thoughts on the “winners” and any omissions.
The award is named after Citizen Kane’s “Declaration of Principles,” which publisher Charles Foster Kane idealistically enunciated early on in the film classic, but later on “Without reading it, Kane tears it up, throws it into the wastebasket at his side.”
I agree with Al Gore “Overall the media’s coverage of climate issues has been atrocious.” In that sense, the entire media deserves a dishonorable mention for its generally poor coverage of climate science, politics, and economics this year:
- How the status quo media failed on climate change
- Exclusive: Journalism professor Jay Rosen on why climate science reporting is so bad
- Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America
- Media ran with now-retracted attack on IPCC in their assault on global warming science
- New study reaffirms broad scientific understanding of climate change, questions media’s reliance on tiny group of less-credibile scientists for “balance”
Skipping the musical number I had prepared for the awards ceremony, let’s dive straight into the top ten list:
10. The Boston Globe — For one of the worst news articles ever published on global warming. It showcases the four horsemen of awful climate journalism: Dreadful headline (“A cooling trend”), grotesque imbalance, a total lack of understanding or even interest in climate science, and a wholly unsubstantiated, near-libelous slur against a leading scientist:
9. The Atlantic’s Clive Crook — He made up stuff and printed it (without fact-checking) for the sole purpose of smearing Michael Mann (see “The Atlantic’s Clive Crook needs to retract his libelous misinformation and apologize to Michael Mann“). And he did it again even after he and the editors were informed of the libelous errors in the first piece (see “Atlantic shocker: Senior editor Clive Crook fabricates another quote to smear Michael Mann“). When he ultimately was forced by his editors to concede I was right, Crooked Timber described Crook’s response:
I don’t know exactly why Crook climbed down in this abject fashion. To use his own term, these posts are “mealy-mouthed apologies,” albeit “mealy-mouthed apologies” of the kind that clearly had some considerable difficulty making it past the craw….
But his memory seems to be malfunctioning. It wasn’t the climate scientists who got their arses handed back to them on a plate. It was Clive Crook. I trust he’ll be grateful for the reminder.
In fact, while Crook conceded, “Joe Romm’s criticism that I misquoted the Penn State report is correct” and “Joe Romm’s criticism that the phrase “the trick to hide the decline” does not appear in the Climategate emails is correct,” he never apologized to Mann.
Worse, his “correction” merely put in an ellipsis — “trick…to hide the decline” — a phrase promoted by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that many, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, had explained was libelously misleading.
8. Newsweek — The magazine continues to disappoint, appearing for the second straight year thanks to a few truly dreadful articles:
- Why has a Newsweek economics editor, Stefan Theil, written “basically a condensed version of the climate denier viewpoint”? As Dr. Robert J. Brulle, a Drexel University “expert on environmental communications,” wrote me: “This article is basically a condensed version of the climate denier viewpoint. Mr. Theil significantly distorts the situation, and grossly fails to ground his story in the actual facts, all to support his biased position. Obviously, Newsweek doesn’t have any fact-checking capability. How this counts as journalism is beyond me.”
- Newsweek staff who play fast and loose with the facts are imperiling not just their profession but the planet.
- Newsweek Gets Coal Terribly Wrong
7. George Will and the editors of the Washington Post — They have lost their top spot, mainly because Will, for whatever reason, isn’t writing as much disinformation on climate. But the paper’s coverage on climate and energy — and their new ‘5 Myths’ section — leave much to be desired:
- Scientific models predict continued decline in Washington Post circulation if they keep publishing dreadful climate articles
- The award for the reporter who is as confused about plug-in hybrids as the folks he quotes …
- I oppose hearings into “journalistic malpractice” underlying Washington Post climate coverage
- Slowing global warming: Not a job for the Washington Post
- One myth about the Washington Post: It still practices serious journalism
- George Will embraces Walter Russell Mead’s risible anti-science revisionism
6. The New York Times — the so-called paper of record — has begun to improve its climate reporting (see Coastal studies experts: “For coastal management purposes, a [sea level] rise of 7 feet (2 meters) should be utilized for planning major infrastructure”). But that just can’t overcome some of the worst climate journalism in American earlier in the year. And they still run Andy Revkin, albeit as a blogger:
- N.Y. Times Faces Credibility Siege over Unbalanced Climate Coverage: One oft-quoted communications expert calls this attack on the IPCC, “the worst, one sided reporting I have ever seen…. In this article, the New York Times has become an echo-chamber for the climate disinformation movement.”
- In yet another front-page journalistic lapse, the NY Times once again equates non-scientists — Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) — with climate scientists
- Brulle: “The NY Times doesn’t need to go to European conferences to find out why public opinion on climate change has shifted…. Just look in the mirror.”
- Science Times stunner: “… a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity”
- Revkin: “The idea that we’re going to fix the climate change problem or solve global warming has always been a fantasy, totally wishful, from my standpoint.”
- Apparently you can write an entire article on how the public doesn’t get climate science without mentioning the disinformation campaign or the media’s failings
- Revkin’s DotEarth hypes disinformation posted on an anti-science website
5. BBC — The once-vaunted British media giant has perhaps had the biggest Kane-like fall from grace this year. If I weren’t including those who have simply decided to intentionally spread disinformation, they might well have won the award out right this year:
- Exclusive: Former correspondent and editor explains the drop in quality of BBC’s climate coverage
- Dreadful climate story by BBC’s Richard Black
- The BBC asks “What happened to global warming?” during the hottest decade in recorded history!
- BBC’s Panorama falls into ‘balance as baloney’ trap in half hour climate show, “What’s up with the weather?”
- BBC asks CRU’s Phil Jones the climate version of “When did you stop beating your wife”
4 & 3. David Rose, Richard North, James Delingpole, The Daily Mail, Telegraph, and Sunday Times — I’m lumping the “journalists” into #4 and their shameless papers into #3. British climate journalism has collapsed this year:
- David Rose destroys his credibility and the Daily Mail’s with error-riddled climate science reporting
- RoseGate becomes DailyMailGate: Error-riddled articles and false statements destroy Daily Mail’s credibility
- Racial slur ‘amazongate’ disinformer Richard North loses two UK Press Complaints Commission cases
- UK Telegraph retracts and apologies for bogus Tata story, but doesn’t apologize to Pachauri for smear
- Sunday Times retracts and apologizes for shameful and bogus Amazon story smearing IPCC
- DelingpoleGate: Monbiot slams anti-science columnist for leading “Telegraph into vicious climate over email”
- Exclusive: Forest scientist fights back against ‘distorted’ UK article on Amazon and IPCC
2. WattsUpWithThat — Anthony Watts does more than any person in the blogosphere to spread anti-scientific disinformation. Although he was a TV weatherman, he isn’t a ‘journalist’ — but then are any of those Brits in #4 above really journalists? Watts certainly does more harm than each of them, and at least they don’t lecture others on journalism. Watts spent most of the year twisting scientific data to persuade people that Arctic sea ice was going to recover sharply — and then he spent the couple of months absurdly asserting that he did no such thing (see Arctic Death Spiral 2010: Navy’s oceanographer tells Congress, “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower…in the last several thousand years” Disinformers get it very wrong AND see Tamino eviscerate their laughable November revisionism here). Watts has, perhaps more than any other leading anti-science blogger, viciously smeared climate scientists and others. On Memorial Day, for instance, Watts directly questioned the patriotism of both Tamino and Rabett (see “Peak readership for anti-science blogs?“) leading Tamino to write, “This just might be the most loathsome thing Watts has yet done with his blog.” But it wasn’t.
- Scientific American editors slam science deniers for misusing their unscientific online poll: SciAm “horrified” by “the co-opting of the poll” by users of “the well-known climate denier site, Watts Up With That”
- Purported eco-terrorist shot and killed by police: Shockingly, Anthony Watts stands behind his offensive post and comments.
- WattsUpWithThat breaks its own record for fastest overturning of a prediction by reality
- WattsUpWithThat hypes itself with most discredited web metric (hits!) and keeps smearing scientists while demanding others “dial back the rhetoric”
- Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts.
- Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one
- FoxNews, WattsUpWithThat push falsehood-filled Daily Mail article on global cooling that utterly misquotes, misrepresents work of Mojib Latif and NSIDC; Latif told me: “I don’t know what to do. They just make these things up.” NSIDC Director Serreze says it is “completely false.”
- Disinformers defend Foxgate email saying unequivocal warming of the climate should always be disputed: Discredited WattsUpWithThat blogger makes up more stuff
And that brings us to the winner:
1. Fox News — They spread disinformation on climate and every other subject to more people than any other media outlet in the country (see Howell Raines: “Why has our profession … helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?”). Now we know that it is a matter of policy for them to dispute even the most unequivocal scientific facts (see Leaked email reveals Fox News boss Bill Sammon ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science and here). They will promote the words of anyone, no matter how heinous, to advance their anti-climate agenda (see “Fox News suckered by Bin Laden into repeating his disinformation and message of hatred.” And they feature one of the most absurd disinformers on the planet nightly — see Video: Glenn Beck brings ExxonMobil-linked religious front group to tell Christians not to believe in “man-caused” climate change.
The net result is that they are regular viewers are the most misinformed people in the country:
Note: As I indicated last year, you obviously can’t compare people who are actively trying to spread disinformation with people who are merely doing a poor job. I am not comparing Clive Crook with David Rose, or the New York Times with Fox News. That would be comparing apples and oranges or perhaps airplanes and oranges. Individual rankings are based on an individual curve compared to where these outlets/journalists aspire. It is precisely because the BBC and NYT aspire much higher than most everyone else, that their myriad failings — despite much outstanding coverage and an excellent editorial/opinion page — put them on the list.
Joe Romm is a Fellow at American Progress and is the editor of Climate Progress, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." In 2009, Rolling Stone put Romm #88 on its list of 100 "people who are reinventing America." Time named him a "Hero of the Environment″ and “The Web’s most influential ...
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