The Sciences

The Media as Piñata

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJun 17, 2011 5:02 PM


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If there is one deeply held sentiment in the climate debate that is shared by bloggers and commentators of all stripes, it is this: journalists suck. It's a constant refrain at places like Climate Progress and WUWT. But really the sentiment is widespread in the climate blogosphere, so much so that an alien visiting from another planet would wonder how journalists are able to tie their shoes in the morning. Climate scientist Judith Curry is the latest to join the chorus of media bashers:

Journalists for the most part have dropped the ball on the climate change issue, and the watchdog/accountability role has been ceded to the blogospheric auditors, notably Steve McIntyre. There are very few mainstream journalists behaving in a true investigative way on the climate change issue. The pointman just posted an interesting essay on this.

I went over to see what the pointman (who I had never heard of before) said, which is pretty well reflected in his headline:

The Death Of Journalism And The Irresistible Rise Of The Blogosphere

Still, he indulges in some golden age worship (mythological, I might add) that would make any J-school student's heart ache for dem good old days:

In what now seems to be a bygone era, junior reporters had hammered into them by editors what were called the two golden rules. The first one is never believe a word from a government or any official spokesman. The second one is that when you're handed a story on a plate by somebody, ask yourself what's in it for them. At face value these rules may appear to be cynical but they were what kept the fourth estate from lapsing into a public relations organ of any and all vested interests.

The pointman's nostalgic lament about this "bygone era" comes after his summation of the latest IPCC controversy that environmental writer Mark Lynas has triggered here and here. Because the mainstream media didn't sniff this one out, the pointman concludes:

What does this all mean? Well actually it means independent journalism in the MSM is dead. What's left is a thinly disguised PR mechanism for the establishment.

This broad brush tarring makes me nuts, as regular readers know. So I marched over to Judith Curry's place and left a note expressing my dismay. (Actually, I stopped midway between my living room and the kitchen to let out a primal scream.) Here's what I said, in part:

It is just this kind of ridiculous generalization that I have criticized Romm and others over, when they regularly complain about media failures on climate change. Mainstream journalists do an outstanding job every day, as anyone who daily scans the WSJ, NYT, Washington Post, and many other papers would know. Often stories are lacking and require follow-up. But to dismiss the MSM as dead is pure BS, and is a trope repeated ad nauseum by partisans on the left and right.

Yeah, that's right, I can be just as tribal as you all. Seriously, though, let's get one thing straight: Sure, bloggers have become an important part of the media landscape and on balance, I think that's a really good thing. But there is no replacement for the day-in, day-out reporting by professional journalists. None. Whatsoever.

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