Accuracy in Media

The slanted coverage of the debate over global warming is on display almost every day. But a good recent example was the June 23 USA Today story headlined, “Global warming stoked ’05 hurricanes, study says.” That headline ran across the entire top of page 4 of USA Today. A picture with the story showed emergency workers battling Hurricane Katrina. You have to read to the 7th paragraph to find out that an expert named William Gray of Colorado State University believes “more intense hurricanes” are due entirely to natural changes. It turns out that Gray has been described as “the world’s most famous hurricane expert” and that he has been studying hurricanes for 50 years.

The story, however, highlighted a new report finding that “Global warming helped fuel 2005’s destructive hurricane season?” Gray, in the 7th paragraph of the story, called that “ridiculous.”

Gray, former director of the National Hurricane Center, has told the Washington Post that global warming is “one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people.” That is also the claim made by Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee. Gray placed that quote on the cover of one of his scientific papers analyzing global warming and hurricanes.

In testimony before the Inhofe committee, he said that he has been dismayed over “the bogus science and media-hype” associated with the man-made global warming theory. “As a boy, growing up here in Washington, D.C.,” he said, “I remember the many articles on the large global warming that had occurred between 1900 and 1940. No one understood or knew if this warming would continue. Then the warming abated, and a weak global cooling trend set in from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s. The global warming talk ceased and speculation about a coming ice age came into vogue. I anticipate that the trend of the last few decades of global warming will come to an end, and in a few years we will start to see a weak cooling trend similar to that which occurred from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s.”

In a sense, getting Gray’s views on page-seven of a story is a step forward. Like gay rights, the idea of questioning a human role in global warming is being thrown aside by many in the media as not even worthy of attention.

What we are seeing is opinion journalism, in which journalists sharing Al Gore’s opinion about global warming are manipulating the coverage. In a famous Los Angeles Times op-ed, Victor Navasky of The Nation magazine said that the problem with modern journalism was not that there was too much opinion, but too little. He means liberal opinion.

It is noteworthy that Navasky, a professor of journalism at Columbia, is chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review.

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