Accuracy in Media

In the future, we’ll no longer be able to have Winter Olympics because of climate change. This at least is the interpretation of a number of media outlets, we’ve used Mic as our example. “Climate change might kill the Olympics,” the headline says, followed by subhead, “The controversial cold-weather Games in Beijing could also be one of the last.”

The claim comes from a research article and that’s not, in fact, what it claims.

It’s actually a survey of 300-plus previous competitors at the Winter Olympics, talking to them about the conditions necessary for the athletes to be able to compete successfully and safely. So it isn’t an objective view of whether skiing, skating and bobsledding can be done in the future. It’s a recording of opinions.

Further, it does not look at where we might be able to have winter games in the future. It looks at how conditions are or might change in places Winter Games have been held.

Yes, climate change is a thing, conditions are changing. But there’s a huge difference between saying that it’ll be difficult to have a Winter Games in Vancouver again and the claim that we can never have a Winter Games ever again. The solution to winter games and climate change is to move the location a hundred or two hundred miles north (not south, as we’ve never had a Southern Hemisphere event) or possibly even 1,000 or 2,000 feet up the mountain.

After all, they are held in a different place each time.

Mic is an important part of the youth-oriented media environment, reaching some 2 million views a month. It’s also part of the stable that includes Bustle, Gawker, W and Inverse. They have the resources to do better than this. The story has been misrepresented elsewhere as well.

We are all aware that any news about climate change is blown up to make us all willing to do absolutely anything to beat it. But even so the ability to actually report such a research article seems to us to be an important part of the media responsibility.

This paper says that conditions might not be suitable at the places we’ve had past Winter Games. It does not, not at all, say that other locations won’t be viable – it most certainly does not say that Winter Games will not be possible. So, the reporting should not say that it does.

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