It is not my intention here to rebut Romm point by point. Given the length of his post, that would take quite a long time and no doubt bore everyone to death. (And Kloor has more than adequately stood up for himself.) But I will say this: Far from a “trash journalist,” Kloor is a respected reporter whose work has been published in such prestigious publications as Science, Nature, Smithsonian, High Country News, Mother Jones and Archeology. Before coming to the CEJ for the 2008/2009 academic year, he was a senior editor at Audubon. Kloor has also served as an adjunct professor in NYU’s journalism program. I think that’s evidence enough that Kloor is a top-notch environmental and science journalist.
Full disclosure: I consider Kloor a friend as well as a colleague, and he was my editor on several pieces I wrote for Audubon. (When he applied for our fellowship program, I recused myself from decision-making in his case.)
Those who have worked with Kloor as I have know that in his journalism he is a meticulous, accurate and fair reporter who works very hard to get the story right. As a writer for Audubon, I can say that he pushed me to do the same thing.
So, what prompted Romm’s latest attack? Read Romm’s post to get his take on it. But I believe Kloor hit a raw nerve for criticizing Romm about a particular ethical issue involving interviewing and feeding quotations to sources. It all started about a week and a half ago, when Stephen Dubner, co-author of the book SuperFreakonomics, published excerpts of some email traffic he says he had gotten hold of between Romm and climate scientist Ken Caldeira. Here’s what Dubner wrote about the episode in the New York Times:
The chain [of email messages] begins with Joseph Romm telling Caldeira that he had readSuperFreakonomics and “I want to trash them for this insanity and ignorance.” Romm adds that “my blog is read by everyone in this area, including the media” and tells Caldeira that “I’d like a quote like ‘The authors of SuperFreakonomics have utterly misrepresented my work,’ plus whatever else you want to say.”
In a blog posting, Romm defended himself with this:
It is exceedingly common in regular journalism to ask people for a quote that makes a very specific point — I’ve been asked many times by reporters to do similar things.
And that’s when Kloor took Romm to task, saying that, in fact, it is not ethical to feed sources quotations. Personally, I don’t really know how common the practice is. But I can say this — in response to Romm, who asked in yesterday’s post what we teach at the CEJ: We tell our students that feeding quotations to a source (let alone for the purpose of trashing someone) most definitely is not an ethical practice.
The blogosphere certainly has a tendency to prompt people to say things they shouldn’t. Goodness knows, I’ve made my own mistakes as a blogger, and I’m sure Kloor has as well. But now that we’ve gotten a glimpse at the man behind the curtain, we can see someone with an abiding need to “trash” people who disagree with him.
It sure makes for racy copy. But it doesn’t do much for the cause of grappling with climate change.