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Editor Claims NewsHour Reports Fairly on Global Warming - Where's the Proof? Pt II
07-17-2012, 05:08 PM
Post: #1
Editor Claims NewsHour Reports Fairly on Global Warming - Where's the Proof? Pt II
(author's note: due to the apparent disappearance of the original article - url of it here - and the instability of the url of the Yahoo cache of it - screencapture of that cache here - I'm obligated to reproduce it word for word below. This piece and its corresponding Pt I were critical support material for my August 18, 2011 "PBS and Global Warming Skeptics' Lockout", in its 3rd paragraph links.)

Editor Claims NewsHour Reports Fairly on Global Warming - Where's the Proof? Pt II
August 10, 2011

My prior blog was a verbatim reproduction of a private email (which I only recently received permission to quote in any article I write). My goal in making it available for all to see was to illustrate an incredibly frustrating problem about the way many journalists, politicians and policymakers refer to man-caused global warming as settled science. Ask any of those why we need to proceed with greenhouse gas regulations in the face of skeptic scientists saying there is no need for it, and they can't give straight answers.

Just like the last one, the verbatim email below from PBS NewsHour National Affairs Editor Murrey Jacobson (who also granted me the same permission to reproduce it just a few days ago) was perhaps partially the result of more than a year's worth of my 20+ emails, starting in late December 2009 until two months ago, this time almost entirely to the PBS Ombudsman. I pointed out obvious red flag problems on the overall issue, while again asking the same basic question about why no skeptic climate scientists appeared on the NewsHour presenting detailed climate science assessments from 1996 or earlier to the present time. To his credit, Ombudsman Getler did answer a few of those, saying the 'NewsHour execs' were aware of his efforts to get answers for me, but could only speculate about when Jacobson might answer.

However, the lack of response from all my more recent email efforts prompted me to finally skip trying to get an answer from Jacobson and send a snail mail letter in mid-May directly to Jim Lehrer, asking him to explain this. Upon receiving a two-sentence reply from Lehrer saying "I hear you on your concerns about our reports on the global warming issue", I pointed out the obvious problem there in an email to Getler, to which he responded that he would be receiving some kind of response from NewsHour soon. The result was this email:

  Let me respond to Mr. Cook's concerns about our coverage of the global warming issue.

  We work diligently to present multiple views surrounding many hotly debated issues in the news.  That includes our coverage of global warming and climate change.  In fact, we've been criticized in the past for giving too much time to the skeptics on this subject.

  We do occasionally air newsmaker interviews.  We did just that in 2007 when the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its reports on what it termed the dangers of climate change and the potential impact in the years to come.  As we do with political figures or scientific researchers or others who make news, we felt justified in offering our audience a snapshot of the findings of the report.

  Since then, we have covered "Climategate" as well, including a tape story on the fallout and other stories about it in our news summary. We've done less on the subject of late simply because other stories have dominated the news. We are continuing to watch for news developments that warrant more coverage.  One example: In the wake of this spring’s severe weather, we examined the possible causes just three weeks ago. That discussion had two voices: a scientist who believed climate change was connected with the flooding and a meteorologist who said there was not enough data to link the uptick in tornadoes to climate change. (We also wrote a piece online about global weather stories last August that reflected the uncertainty and discussion surrounding the subject.)

  Until the 2010 election season, there was much debate in Congress and the White House about what should be done on the policy front with regard to greenhouse gases. We've broadcast several segments in recent years focusing on policy questions.  Among those we've included in our discussions is Ken Green of the American Enterprise Institute.  Green has testified before Congress about his skepticism on climate change.

   Finally, we are aware there are many scientists and researchers who believe climate change is real and growing, and we know there are plenty of skeptics in the scientific community.  However, I don't believe the numbers are not equivalent on the two sides. Our coverage has reflected the trajectory of the data while offering differing perspectives on these issues.  We will continue to do that.

Some observations:
• " too much time to the skeptics on this subject"?? In my search through their online archives (including, but not limited to, their Environment pages) of every discussion with even a brief mention of the issue - 258 copied to my computer notes collection so far - I counted basically three that had any useful amount of skeptic science points, and two of those stretch that characterization a bit. I am curious how Jacobson or any NewsHour viewer can extract any proof of 'too much skeptic time' from those archives. The NewsHour's diligent work to secure guests with multiple views on other topics is evident. On the global warming issue, only one view has been presented, a forgone conclusion that human activity causes it. This isn't an opinion, it is a plain fact, supported by their own archive broadcasts. I've already described how this 'too much balance for skeptics' assertion is an unsupportable assertion, and appears to be a 15-year old mantra talking point.
• Regarding IPCC-related newsmaker interviews, who has the authority at the NewsHour to say skeptic scientists having assessments contradicting the IPCC are not newsworthy, and not deserving of newsmaker interviews?
• Yes, ClimateGate was covered, as I mentioned in my prior blog, in a taped interview four months after the story first broke, with perhaps less than 10 minutes total time devoted to it before that over the span of three programs.
• Unless I'm mistaken, when Jacobson refers to the 'two-voice meteorologist / scientist severe weather discussion', I assume he is talking about the Katharine Hayhoe / Jeff Masters May 30th segment. The incredible irony is that the supposedly skeptic voice here, Jeff Masters, unleashed a very biased diatribe against skeptic scientists at his 2006 blog, which included a regurgitation of the central unsupportable accusation that such scientists were paid by fossil fuel industries to "reposition global warming as theory rather than fact". There weren't two opposing views here, both are one voice, despite Masters' reluctance to connect tornado frequency to global warming. Even IPCC scientist / frequent NewsHour guest Michael Oppenheimer dissents on ideas like more frequent hurricanes = global warming. Notice Oppenhiemer's title within that article link, and the author of the book he is positively reviewing, which is the same person Masters quoted.
• Indeed, Talea Miller did write an online piece last August with all of three short paragraphs - four sentences altogether - devoted to skepticism about connecting climate change to weather occurrences. The link within one of those two was to a CNN article which could hardly be construed to be voicing any kind of viewpoint that humans are not causing global warming.
• Ken Green of AEI may have voiced some skepticism about humans causing global warming, but none can be seen in his discussion of this on the NewsHour.
• Jacobson doesn't 'believe'(*) the numbers of skeptic scientists equal the numbers of scientists on the IPCC side. This is not a matter of belief, it is a matter of hard facts, which itself ought to be enough to prompt the NewsHour to prove Jacobson's belief with a detailed analysis for the benefit of all its viewers, and present irrefutable proof that 'the trajectory of the data' does indeed show the IPCC's side of the science is prevailing against the skeptics' assessments.  (* Jacobson's 3rd-to-last sentence does have a typo with the extra "not" word - I asked Ombudsman Getler for confirmation of it, he responded that he had seen it too and had brought it to the attention of Jacobson, who said the "not" should be erased.)

Three questions become abundantly obvious: What happens if the NewsHour cannot prove a winning 'trajectory' for the IPCC? What happens if the NewsHour discovers the amount of skeptics vs 'believers' is much closer together, if not tilted toward the skeptic side? And what happens if the NewsHour cannot find a shred of proof that a fossil fuel industry conspiracy exists where skeptic scientists are paid to lie about the 'settled science' of man-caused global warming, which they supposedly know otherwise to be true?
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