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Cry Me a River

By Keith Kloor
Jan 7, 2011 10:15 PMNov 20, 2019 2:27 AM


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Media bashing is a popular sport of both the Left and Right. It always has been, but in the blog/twitter/200 cable channels age, journalism has become a proxy battleground for everyone with an ax to grind, as this 2008 NYT story explains:

The blur of new media creates fresh opportunities for attack, counterattack, counter-counterattacks, odd alliances, strained allegiances, hidden agendas and, most of all, confusion. "People walk up to me and start complaining about some crawl they just saw on CNBC," said Mr. Brokaw, referring to the business news channel owned by his network. "And I have no idea what they're talking about. It's like the "˜Star Wars' bar."

This journalist-as-punching bag craze is pronounced in the climate blogosphere. Global warming-related coverage is regularly derided at two of the most popular sites, Climate Progress and What's Up With That. Their faithful readerships eat it up, despite the criticism being selective, one-sided, and way out of proportion to the voluminous reportage and commentary produced daily on an array of sites, from The Guardian and Grist to Scientific American and The New York Times. (See Tom Yulsman's recent post for more perspective on this.) Journalists working the climate/environment beat mostly shrug off the arrows slung at them from all sides, which is a wise thing to do. Criticism comes with the territory, be it city hall or the EPA. But sometimes pushback is necessary. So I was happy to see Andrew Revkin stick up for his profession in a recent post, specifically taking aim at this skewed criticism by Joe Romm. Revkin writes:

I'm trying not to use Dot Earth as a reactive tool, but once in awhile I've got to defend my newsroom colleagues. While climate pundits sit inside the Beltway dictating posts, Justin Gillis has been traveling to mountain peaks and ice sheets to tell the story of accumulating carbon dioxide and diminishing glacial ice. The reporters who produced this year's outstanding "Beyond Fossil Fuels" series traveled the globe, as well, building on years of prior coverage that first crested with our multi-year Energy Challenge series.

Of course, climate pundits aren't the only ones taking potshots at the media. Climate scientists and climate educators are increasingly venting their displeasure with journalists, as well. The latest example is at Real Climate, which deconstructs this Forbes article. But towards the end of its legitimate criticism of the Forbes piece, the authors lob this stinkbomb at the media:

The naysayers ought to be thrilled at the lack of interest in climate change shown in the press, at least in North America. The longer we delay, the bigger the topic gets, and the more ridiculous the refusal of the press and policy sector to grapple with it becomes.

So when the press isn't "blowing the story," it's ignoring it, right? Got it. In fairness to the folks at RC, they will laud outstanding climate journalism from time to time, unlike Romm, who only emphasizes the target="_blank">negative, to the comment-314226" target="_blank">rare chagrin (comment #31) of his readers. Charges of silence aside, critics such as Romm reflexively highlight only the stories they dislike, giving the impression that environmental and climate journalists "blow the story" every single time they publish. That recently prompted Yulsman to ask:

Are we really that awful?

No, of course not. Rather, as Brad Johnson, Romm's colleague at the Center for American Progress, comment-314054" target="_blank">asserts (in comment #3), Yulsman is part of an

enviro-journalist cabal that have complicated reasons for muddying the science, that reflect decades of being manipulated by propagandists.

Or maybe he didn't mean Yulsman, just everyone else who covers climate change. I don't know. Brad never responded when I comment-314110" target="_blank">asked him (comment #17) at the "Star Wars" bar for specifics. Regardless, you get the picture. Journalists exhibit "a lack of interest in climate change" when they aren't "blowing the story" because of their membership in a "cabal" that has been "manipulated by propagandists" for decades. Yep, makes sense to me.

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