Environment

Why It's Called News

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorMar 7, 2011 7:49 PM

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Bud Ward has a nice dispatch on the AAAS session I wrote about last month, including this revealing back-and-forth I had wanted to follow up on:

Another exchange involving an audience member "” in this case Peter Gleick, the head of the Pacific Institute "” also helped illustrate fundamentally different approaches distinguishing the media and the science community. [Seth] Borenstein had noted in his prepared remarks that through December 2010, NOAA recordkeeping had indicated 311 consecutive months in which world mean temperature, land and ocean, had been warmer than normal. That has been the case for each month since February 1985, Borenstein said "” the month that actor Mel Gibson was named People magazine's "sexiest man alive" and Minolta had introduced the world's first auto-focus single lens reflex camera. Borenstein said he had been eager to see if a cool January 2011 might end that 311-month streak, which he said would provide a strong "record-broken" peg for a story. Gleick, a respected water resources expert, wasn't buying it. "Why isn't 312 straight months a story?" Gleick asked. His question prompted comments of approval from a number of climate scientists in the audience. Borenstein's response: "It is the equivalent of planes landing safely every day." He schooled the audience that more of the same isn't news for most editors and reporters. What makes news is breaking that mold, not simply sustaining it yet again, he explained. Again, it was an exchange that helped illuminate some of the differing thought patterns that distinguish scientists and journalists.

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