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Pushing Back on Romm's Censorial Mentality

By Keith Kloor
Oct 31, 2011 9:55 PMNov 20, 2019 3:23 AM


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Last week, the New York Times put out a special section on energy that didn't pass muster with Joe Romm. He declared:

I think it is safe to cancel your subscriptions to the one-time paper of record. While there are 1 or 2 reporters at the New York Times who get climate and energy, it's obvious that most don't and, more importantly, the editorial staff simply don't know what they're doing.

This is typical hyperbole from Romm that largely gets ignored by climate media watchers. But this particular rant caught Charlie Petit's eye at the Tracker. As he noted, Romm was upset

because the section is full of news on fossil fuel industry expansion but not enough, not much at all actually, on why it'd be much better to look forward to a future with no fossils fuels at all and a stabilized atmospheric concentration of CO2.

Petit then says something that gives a clue as to why Romm gets a free pass for his heavy-handed attacks on journalists:

Romm's energy sensibilities are on the side of the angels. We got an emergency unfolding and governments and their populaces are, most of them, pulling pillows over their heads so they can sleep.

But then Petit's better journalistic angel takes over (my emphasis):

Would the [Times] section have been better to have run a significant feature on the consequences to the planet if the growth curves of fossil fuel use implied by what industry and policy experts expect were to occur (not the same as what's best)? Sure, why not. It is gut-wrenching to read, amid a few pieces on the struggles of the clean-energy business, how bullish analysts are on petroleum and natural gas. But cancel the paper? Romm seems to be temperamentally skating close to the mentality of police state censors: as in China when nothing in the news about policy matters could be printed without reference to Mao, as in the Soviet Union when it was ditto for Stalin (or, today, to the Dear Leader or whatever they call the monomaniac in charge of N. Korea). Not that I'd equate, at all, the edifice of climate science with the intellectual bankruptcies of various dictators. But to demand only one angle on news stories, an angle that has been given extensive coverage and is therefore not news anymore except when things come along to advance the ball, is to be delusional about that a news medium's job is.

It's not often that Romm gets called out by media watchdogs for his rhetorical excesses, so this one time was worth noting.

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