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What to Make of Climate Journalism?

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMarch 8, 2012 10:52 PM


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Two recent articles about science journalism carry headlines that reflect a tension between two modes of thinking on climate change reporting. The Guardian piece asserts in its headline:

Science journalists should be asking questions and deflating exaggeration

Michael Lemonick, a veteran science journalist, asks:

Should we tell the whole truth about climate change?

The two articles address separate journalistic issues (the Guardian piece does not reference climate change), but to my mind, they each are relevant to a larger, fundamental concern that dogs environmental reporters on the climate beat: Insufficient context for and skepticism of claims made in climate studies and reports. Is the problem with reporters (or headline writers?) who simplify and overly dramatize climate findings? (See here and here, for example.) Or is the problem with reporters who uncritically regurgitate the findings from NGO's and think tanks? (See here and here.) I tend to think there's ample evidence of both. That said, I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that there are plenty of times when climate reporters don't allow themselves to be spoon fed. (See here, for one notable instance.) Ironically, despite the perception that media has exaggerated the dangers of global warming, some climate activists (and climate scientists) often criticize mainstream reporters for not ringing enough alarm bells. The charge heard most these days is insufficient linkage of extreme weather to global warming. That whole debate has become a minefield for reporters. Regardless of what they write, however, there is one constant for journalists on the climate beat: They are assailed from all sides, as I discuss in this new post at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

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