Non-journalistic Criteria Drive Climate Change Coverage

November 7th, 2013 · 2 Comments · energy policy, environment, Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

What if someone new took the helm at the Albuquerque Journal? My colleague Denise Tessier posed that question here Nov. 1 and I have been unable to escape it since, mostly because answers insist on springing, unbidden, to mind.

If, for example, a professional journalist steered that ship, rather than the political commissar (commissars?) now charting its course, the newspaper might – gee whiz! – report the climate change story fairly.

Imagine that!

To understand the wide, oceanic U-turn that would require, let’s trace a sequence of Journal “news judgments” prior to and following the powerful report issued by the world’s top climate scientists in Stockholm at the end of September.

“Unveiling the latest United Nations assessment of climate science, the experts cited a litany of changes that were already under way, warned that they were likely to accelerate and expressed virtual certainty that human activity is the main cause. “Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time,” said Thomas F. Stocker, co-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sponsored group of scientists that produced the report.

As a consequence, the scientists for the first time called on governments to limit greenhouse gases or face irreversible climatic changes.

That’s from the N.Y. Times Sept. 28.

So how did the journalists atop the Albuquerque Journal hierarchy deal with the story?

Well, same day, on A5, bottom of the page, the last item in a “world news” roundup, they ran three whole paragraphs under the headline:

“Humans ‘Likely’ cause warming.”

“Likely,” huh? The first graph says “extremely likely.” Did the editor who wrote the head not know the difference? Was he or she aiming to please a commissar? I’ve no idea.

To fully appreciate the non-journalistic criteria behind the decision to minimize this story, give it a misleading headline and bury it, let’s see how Journal commissars dealt with a story that questioned climate change a few days earlier, Sept. 24.

They put it on the front page, of course.

They ran 18 graphs’ worth.

And they gave it the headline, “Global temperatures failing to rise”, which, according to the story, isn’t quite accurate. Turns out certain temperatures haven’t risen over 15 years or so.

They put a similarly misleading head over the page two jump.

Oh, and finally, they chose not to headline (or pull quote) what NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert told the reporter in the last paragraph:

“There’s no doubt that in terms of global temperatures we’ve hit a little flat spot in the road here, but there’s been no slowdown whatsoever in sea level rise, so global warming is alive and well.”

Of course, I understand. Why confuse readers? Why lead them to question the unchecked use of fossil fuels? The Journal’s dedication to reporting ends where the short-term interests of that industry begin.

To conclude this little proof of the Journal’s promotion of its political agenda in the “news” columns, please consider John Fleck’s attempt to educate readers on that subject in an UpFront column Oct. 8.

For background, Fleck covers the environment and energy excellently, offering a quiet alternative to management’s propaganda for the oligarchy.

He takes such great pains, however, to relay the complexity of reality that I sometimes find him difficult to understand. This column, headlined “Taking the long view of climate change” required very close reading.

But I think he said we’d best not dismiss climate change because of a little flat spot in the road.

And it’s my guess he was super-subtle for fear of the commissars.

That would be unnecessary and he could say what he concluded in so many words, of course, were professional journalists steering the ship.

Tags: ····

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Bill Tiwald

    I watched PBS in disbelief when a meteorologist with Univ. of Oklahoma denied the November tornadoes in Illinois and Indiana were an anomaly and not part of climate change.

  • Jay

    A meteorologist with U. of Oklahoma said the November tornadoes in Illinois and Indiana were not part of climate change? How dare he!

    Believe it or not, a very large number of real scientists are skeptical that catastrophic human-caused climate change is occurring.

    The only difference between a meteorologist and a climatologist is that the meteorologist can forecast. Other than that, they pretty much have the same training.

Leave a Comment