media balance

Fri, 2011-07-08 02:33Graham Readfearn
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Clearing Up The Climate Debate with A Conversation

The Conversation

CLIMATE scientists must sometimes feel that they’re taking part in some horrific, humourless worldwide game of Chinese Whispers.

After spending months, in some cases years, diligently carrying out research, checking, re-checking and quantifying observations and data, they submit their discovery to a science journal.

Journal editors then send that work out to other scientists who pick holes in it, or praise it, before sending it back with the academic equivalents of those smiley faces or red crosses that school teachers loved to draw on your school books.

Issues with the research are then rectified (if they can be) and finally the work is published. Except of course, that’s not the end of the story.

Fri, 2011-03-25 06:32Chris Mooney
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Truth and the Oped Pages

Thank goodness for John Abraham—because he does so well what no one should have to do.

That’s my reaction after reading this recent exchange in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in which Abraham—a co-founder of the Climate Science Rapid Response team and a professor at the University of St. Thomas—dismantles an array of misleading claims about climate science from one Jason Lewis, a syndicated radio talk show host.

Lewis repeats the “hide the decline” line from “Climategate” and thoroughly misrepresents what it means. He incorrectly asserts  that global warming concerns are based on “computer models” rather than data. He claims that following 1998, temperatures “may actually be cooling,” and so forth.

Thu, 2011-03-10 08:25Chris Mooney
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The Consequences of He Said, She Said Journalism

For a long time, those closely watching the climate debate unfold have denounced “he said, she said, we’re clueless” journalism, in which reporters present a “debate” between those who accept the science and those who do not, and leave it at that. Let the reader figure out who’s right, the philosophy seems to be. It’s journalistic “objectivity” not to “take sides”—right?

Those criticizing this approach—myself emphatically included—are working under a key assumption: If journalists would take a stand on matters of fact (such as whether global warming is caused by humans), rather than treating them as un-resolvable, the broader political discourse would also shift onto a firmer footing. That’s because we would move towards having a shared factual basis for making policy decisions, rather than fighting over the very reality upon which policy ought to be based.

It’s in this context that a new study (PDF) published in the Journal of Communication, would appear to break new ground–by actually examining the psychological effect that “he said, she said” or “passive” journalism has on readers, and in particular, on their views of whether it’s possible to discern the truth.

Mon, 2011-01-10 12:11Chris Mooney
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Watching Fox News Can Be Hazardous to Your Facts

In mid December, you may recall, Media Matters exposed an email from Fox News editor Bill Sammon instructing his reporters to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.” It was no surprise that Fox was guilty of misrepresenting the science on climate change—anyone who has watched the channel cover the subject has seen this—but it was nevertheless appalling to find the goal so blatantly stated.

But there’s been less discussion of a finding that closely accompanied this revelation. In a survey late last year, Stanford political psychologist Jon Krosnick found that more frequent Fox viewers were significantly less likely to trust climate science and climate scientists than those who don’t watch the channel, or who watch it less.

Mon, 2010-03-15 18:25Jim Hoggan
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Stanford Study Confirms That “Balanced” Media Stories Quoting Skeptics Mislead The Public

Skeptics Skew Public Understanding of Climate Change

Providing climate skeptics a voice in “balanced” mainstream media coverage skews public perception of the scientific consensus regarding climate change, leaving viewers less likely to understand the threat of climate disruption and less likely to support government actions to address global warming, according to the results of a Stanford University research effort

The Stanford researchers probed the impact on public understanding of climate change when media coverage features a climate skeptic alongside a climate scientist.  Media stories featuring only a mainstream climate scientist “increased the number of people who believed that global warming has been happening and that humans have caused global warming.”

However, when media stories also include a climate skeptic, ostensibly to add “balance” to the story, the result is a “significantly reduced” number of people who understand the issue and endorse government action to address the problem.

“Watching a skeptic decreased perceptions of consensus among scientific experts, and this decreased perception of consensus led respondents to be less supportive of government action in general and of cap and trade policy in particular,” the researchers found.

Mon, 2007-11-05 17:25Richard Littlemore
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On One Hand, Al Gore and the IPCC, on the Other ....?

We've said it, Boykoff and Boykoff have said it, and now the Nobel Prize winning Al Gore has stated the obvious: that North American media members have been played for fools, reporting climate change as an “on the one hand, on the other hand” issue.

It's hard to track whether this faulty substitute for real impartiality is a reflection of mass media stupidity or if it's a tribute to the cleverness of the people for whom it is economically advantageous to deny climate change. Personally, I think there is something deeply flawed in the media psyche - this addiction to balance that is at once insistent and careless.

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