Accuracy in Media

On December 5, New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt finally addressed the limited coverage of ClimateGate.  Of course, it was too little too late.

The article was Hoyt’s pathetic excuse as to why ClimateGate had been so largely ignored by the New York Times.  Hoyt defended himself, noting that the Times had covered the story in a front page article when it had first come out, and claiming that accusations of the Times’ biased misreporting was a “manufactured” issue.  The front page article regarding ClimateGate was highly biased and made no pretenses at objectivity or true coverage. 

“The biggest question is what the messages amount to — an embarrassing revelation that scientists can be petty and defensive and even cheat around the edges, or a major scandal that undercuts the scientific premise for global warming. The former is a story. The latter is a huge story,” Hoyt admitted.  But why, if either of those issues would be a story, has the Times been so lacking in coverage?

Hoyt presents a half-baked explanation, that basically comes down to that Andrew C. Revkin, the biased Times journalist who was involved in the ClimateGate scandal, didn’t think the scandal merited more of a mention: 

Revkin and Tierney [another Times science reporter] both told me that, after that broad understanding among scientists, there is sharp debate over how fast the earth is warming, how much human activity is contributing and how severe the impact will be.

“Our coverage, looked at in toto [sic], has never bought the catastrophe conclusion and always aimed to examine the potential for both overstatement and understatement,” Revkin said.

Goode, his editor, said: “We here at The Times are not scientists. We don’t collect the data or analyze it, and so the best we can do is to give our readers a sense of what the prevailing scientific view is, based on interviews with scientists” and the expertise of reporters like Revkin.

Hoyt also mentioned articles Revkin and Tierney had written in defense of the ClimateGate “scientists.”  It appears as though to Hoyt, this comprised adequate coverage of the scandal–despite the fact that to normal people, defending liars and presenting the defense as objective may seem sub-par.

In all, Hoyt claimed he thought the Times had actually done an “appropriate” job at covering the ClimateGate emails.  To Hoyt, ClimateGate is “a story—not a three-alarm story.”


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