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Frontline "Climate of Doubt" program: My Rebuttal that PBS Ombudsman Won't Put Online
An entertaining set of complexities culminated in the placement of my most recent piece online at Anthony Watts' WUWT site, which was about the spectacular bias seen in a recent PBS program. See Frontline responds to complaints about Oct 23 "Climate of Doubt": Here, the Rebuttal to Frontline that PBS Ombudsman Won't Put Online.

I first learned of the then-upcoming program at the beginning of October when reading the listing for it in PBS' monthly show schedule. A quick internet search of the title resulted in a specific Frontline web page having a teaser preview and a comments section. As I was already familiar with the bias of two prior Frontline programs on the global warming issue, I immediately placed a lengthy comment there, the nutshell of which was to ask how Frontline could avoid the appearance of outright bias if they repeated their pattern of doing so. My comment, like so many others at PBS web sites, indicated it was under moderation. Usually, such comments are approved within a day.

The twist to that situation occurred a couple of days later. The page changed from one apparently open to comments but otherwise devoid of any, to one stating "Comments for this thread are now closed." I illustrated that in my Oct 3 Tweet's links, the second link there showing my Oct 1 comment. Wondering if my fairly harsh comment prompted it being blocked in this manner, I wrote to the PBS Ombudsman about this strange designation change. Long story short, my comment was approved 24 days later after the broadcast, and after I'd received an email directly from Frontline's Managing Editor Phil Bennett - see the explanation for the delay, followed by my comment here. I should note, I've never seen an explanation for the absence of any instruction that Frontline program comment pages remain closed until after each program is broadcast.

As I noted at my WUWT guest post, I fired off a quick list of concerns I had to the PBS Ombudsman the day after the broadcast, where I suggested the program was apparently in direct violation of WGBH's Journalistic Guidelines about "honest inquiry into the matter at hand", and that I could've readily expand on other faults I found within the program if I had more time. To my surprise on November 5th, my letter appeared at the Ombudsman site, ending a nearly year-long drought of my letters not appearing there (scroll down to the bottom of my page here for a list of my online Ombudsman letters)

Each of Frontline's point-by-point responses struck me as astoundingly weak, so I fired off a response that, due to the repetition of what was seen at the Ombudsman page for keeping things in context, was quite long. The Ombudsman responded that he would simply not reproduce it or anything from Frontline in response to my new concerns. So I asked Anthony Watts if he would like to place the whole piece at WUWT.

Although my piece is there now, an inconvenient bit of communication problems resulting from Anthony's spam filters (which he mentions at the top of my guest post) caused me to worry that it would not appear. Since I have the ability to self-post at Steve Milloy's, I placed a slightly different version there, and emailed Anthony to let him know where it could be seen if the "Climate of Doubt" topic and criticisms of it were brought up in Anthony's "24-hour Goreathon" and that he had the option of blogging about my Frontline rebuttal after his telecast if he chose to do so. Fortunately, the communication problems look like they are solved, and I'm blessed now to have the piece placed at one of the top-read science blogs in the world.

Meanwhile, we wait to see if Frontline rises to the challenge of defending themselves in a guest post at WUWT, which I directly suggested in an email to Phil Bennett.

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