Then directs ludicrous attack on the target of Forbes’ ludicrous attack
Yesterday, I bemoaned the fact that I can’t get no respect — or, more precisely, that my fellow environmental journalists can’t. We’ve found ourselves attacked from both the Left and the Right over our coverage of climate change.
Today, a RealClimate post brought to my attention yet another attack, this one in Forbes by Larry Bell. He accuses the “mainstream media” generally (not environmental specialists per se) of ignoring “good news” about climate. And in their guest commentary, Michael Tobis and Scott Mandia do an artful take-down of Bell, showing how 10 of his 11 assertions of good news are pretty much nonsense. For the details, see their commentary.
But lest my fellow journalists take comfort in two scientists springing to our defense, consider their blistering conclusion:
Ultimately, though, the criticism of the press is ludicrous. The naysayers ought to be thrilled at the lack of interest in climate change shown in the press, at least in North America. The longer we delay, the bigger the topic gets, and the more ridiculous the refusal of the press and policy sector to grapple with it becomes.
I have a mixed reaction to this charge, to say the least.
On the one hand, I find much to criticize in coverage of climate change, particularly on commercial television. So much so, that I have cancelled all but basic cable service to my home — because I find both network and cable television to be a vast, brain-eroding wasteland.
One of the things that put me over the edge was CNN’s shameful “Global Warming: Trick or Truth?” series (one segment of which I took apart here).
There are, of course, some notable exceptions in television, including CNN’s own Planet in Peril series. But these are the exceptions, not the rule, especially in cable.
And to be honest, I just can’t get past the shrieking stupid heads that pass for news there, however entertaining they might be.
But I did say I had mixed feelings. That’s because generalizing about “the press” refusing to grapple with climate change is itself patently ludicrous. Especially in the age of Web 2.0, there simply is no one “press.”
Even within just one category, and in one city, we have on the one hand, the New York Times, and on the other, the New York Post. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the coverage of climate change in the tabloid. But what about the Times? Has it neglected the story of the century?
In a post at DotEarth yesterday, Andrew Revkin convincingly defended his colleagues against that charge:
While climate pundits sit inside the Beltway dictating posts, Justin Gillis has been traveling to mountain peaks and ice sheets to tell the story of accumulating carbon dioxide and diminishing glacial ice. The reporters who produced this year’s outstanding “Beyond Fossil Fuels” series traveled the globe, as well, building on years of prior coverage that first crested with our multi-year Energy Challenge series.
In this series, Elisabeth Rosenthal reported what I consider the most exciting story on energy and development in years — a vivid description in words,video and photography showing how a single solar panel has had an utterly transformative impact on a household and village in rural Kenya. If you want to build climate resilience in poor places, bring people education (kids reading by electric lighting), information and paths to prosperity.
Many other newspaper reporters have also done excellent work on climate change. Peruse the winners of and runner-ups for the Society of Environmental Journalists Awards for Reporting on the Environment and you’ll find many excellent examples over the years. (And actually, not just print stories at newspapers.)
Of course, there is much more to “the press” than major newspapers. To offer just one excellent example, there is High Country News here in my neck of the woods. Their “Hot Times: Climate Change and the West” was a remarkable, award-winning effort consisting of no fewer than — damn it Tobis and Mandia, count them! — 15 separate major stories.
This is “a refusal of the press” to grapple with climate change?
How about the burgeoning Web sector of the media? The “What’s Up With the Weather?” interactive Web site examining global warming, produced by NOVA, Frontline and WGBH, doesn’t look at all like a “refusal” to me. (Neither did the series of television programs that this was based on.)
But hey, I guess the New Yorker has been a real slacker when it comes to climate change coverage, with light-weight articles like Ryan Lizza’s 9,477-word “As the World Burns” last October.
So I have some advice for Michael Tobis, Scott Mandia and other scientists who are frustrated that they haven’t been able to get their message across to the public and want to blame it all on journalists: Take a look in the mirror first. Then let’s talk.
The truth is that together, we have much to bitch about, but also much that should make us proud.
Update 1/7/10: From Keith Kloor’s post this morning:
Journalists exhibit “a lack of interest in climate change” when they aren’t “blowing the story” because of their membership in a “cabal” that has been “manipulated by propagandists” for decades.
Yep, makes sense to me.