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Somewhere Between Falsehoods and Science, Fred Hiatt finds truth?

December 10th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Within journalism, there is a real challenge. Are there, truly, two sides to every issue? Should all voices be treated equally? Do journalists have a responsibility to assess statements for truthfulness or is the job simply to be a transcriber and “reporter” of whatever is told to them? How can one be “objective”, be “honest”, do “high-quality” journalism?

A question that I have asked,

too many news outlets have a tendency to lead to false equivalency in its search for balance. Some 5-10% Americans believe that the Apollo moon landings were Hollywood creations, with it all filmed in secret studios in the desert. One has to wonder whether, when the Chinese or someone else again lands on the moon (or Mars), those news outlets would give equal weight to these voices in a search for balance? After all, their standing in reality-based analysis of science is just about that of Global Warming Skeptics / Deniers who regularly are given prominent billing in news articles and commentary pages.

Yesterday, in violation of its own publishing rules, The Washington Post published a regurgitated (and sort of clean up version) of a Sarah Palin Facebook post filled with factual errors and deceptive statements arguing against action on climate change. (This, of course, is far from the first Post-published oped filled with deceit and disinformation about energy and climate issues. After all, George will-ful deceit Will finds his home on these pages along with others who peddle misleading material on these critical issues.)

Today, evidently in a balancing move, one of The Washington Post editorials, Curbing Carbon, called on Congressional action to address climate change. (Far from the first Post oped calling for action.)

And, The Post published (online, that is) a must-read piece, Don’t let the climate doubters fool you, from someone we might expect merits listening to on science issues: Dr. Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science. It begins

Don’t be fooled about climate science. In April, 1994 — long after scientists had clearly demonstrated the addictive quality and devastating health impacts of cigarette smoking — seven chief executives of major tobacco companies denied the evidence, swearing under oath that nicotine was not addictive.

Now, the American public is again being subjected to those kinds of denials, this time about global climate change. While former Alaska governor Sarah Palin wrote in her Dec. 9 op-ed that she did not deny the “reality of some changes in climate,” she distorted the clear scientific evidence that Earth’s climate is changing, largely as a result of human behaviors. She also badly confused the concepts of daily weather changes and long-term climate trends …

Climate-change science is clear ..

Again, Don’t let the climate doubters fool you is highly recommended (with an improved version at The Guardian) even as so much of what appears in The Washington Post masquerading as informed commentary (given credence by the Post‘s masthead) does not.

For Fred Hiatt, the head of The Washington Post‘s editorial board, it seems that the role of journalism is to seek balance as what is occurring when it comes to climate change, energy, and environmental issues is the repeated publication of error-ridden and falsehood pieces occasionally balanced by truth.

NOTE: The faux and balanced routine at The Post is not limited to the opinion section. James Fallows skewered The Post in a comparison with The New York Times re reporting on ClimateGate.

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Tags: Global Warming · global warming deniers · journalism · Washington Post

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