John Mashey offered some good advice in a comment on my post on the War on Gore. I’m following Michael Tobis’ example and boosting it from comments.

Editorial and News

Editorial and news really are often quite separate, with the Wall Street Journal as an extreme case. I get it for the numerous excellent articles and rarely look at the Op-ed section, except that every once in a while, they actually say something rational. I once discussed the separation with a Wall Street Journal reporter, who started by saying the Editorial gang were “evil neocon dinosaurs,” then moved to less-unrepeatable things.

But, let’s think of proactive measures with regard to the mainstream media.

Reality for Reporters

Having over the years spent a lot of time talking to reporters worldwide and trying to help them understand complex technologies:

R1. The normal distribution applies as elsewhere: there are terrific reporters, there are (mostly) average ones, and there are awful ones, either for incompetence or malice, or both. I’ve mostly seen the former, but I’ve seen several cases of the latter, where people were determined to find dirt, even if they had to use a steam shovel to excavate a square mile to find any, and if they didn’t, to declare rocks as dirt. I’ve been in a couple of interviews like that… and if somebody is really into malice, it’s hopeless.

Still Napoleon’s advice is appropriate. I once had to explain RISC microprocessor design to someone who had just taken over Technology … after doing the Cooking section. She tried hard.

R2. Reporters are busy, and they have deadlines. They usually cannot devote years of study to some topic, especially a complex one, they are barraged with disinformation, and have a lot of pressure towards “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand”, as well as pressure for short-term news.

R3. Even the best ones can screw up.

R4. Even fine ones can get screwed up because sometimes they don’t get to write the headlines, and sometimes the headlines really are misleading. I had one like that, where an innocent interview I did with a terrific Wall Street Journal reporter … dropped my company’s stock 15% in hour or two. If that seems unlikely, see:
How I lost 15% of a Company’s Stock Value in a Few Hours

Proactive actions with reporters

A1. If your think a reporter screws up (but is not hopeless), write email to them, including useful pointers to relevant sources. Be nice. Try to be helpful. Try that first, before bashing them in letters to the editor, even if they deserve it.

Occasionally you will even get back an email that says “Thanks for reading, and thanks so much for your resource-rich comments.” Reporters are human, they like to know someone is reading, even if you disagree with them.

A2. If a reporter writes an insightful story, let them know that also, since most of the time, they get nothing but complaints.

A3. Sometimes, if you establish yourself with a reporter as having useful knowledge, they may even ask you beforehand, or even run story ideas by you. Really good reporters have big Outlook files.

Bloggers: if there’s a good story, write something good about it, and then email the reporter: “hey, I liked your story and I featured it in my blog.”

A4. Pick a modest handful of reporters with which to build up rapport, even if it takes a couple years, and half a dozen emails. In particular, try to take good care of any reporter who actually replies (non-negatively) to an email.

A5. If you think a story was good, and you guess a reporter had to work hard to get it past an editor, send an email to both saying “great story.” Put another way, praise should go to the boss as well, negative comments might or might not.

Proactive actions with editors

A6. Letters to editor are too short to say much, but every once in a while you can get something through. If you find letters to the editor filled with “global warming is a hoax”, try sending a longer letter to the editor explaining the situation. I’ve done that with several local papers, and the frequency of the silly letters seems to have gone down.

A7. If there is a silly OpEd, try suggesting to the Editor some expert to explain the other side. I don’t know if my suggestion had anything to do with it (since others must have surely done so), but the San Jose Mercury News published a really bad op-ed once, by a denialist with a real axe to grind. I wrote them asking why, with Stanford a few miles away, they didn’t ask a real world-class expert like Stephen Schneider to write an op-ed… and in another week or two, that’s what appeared.

Local vs national/international

A8. Local papers: small local papers print lots of junk letters, but the best you can usually do is encourage editors NOT to bother printing any letters about global warming, reasoning that arguing that out in the letters to the editor columns of a local paper makes no sense, and they should concentrate on what they do well. Offer to take them out to lunch and talk about this.

Of course, how much luck you have with this depends on where you are. I’m in one of the easiest places on the planet for this (Silicon Valley), and even here, it still takes attention.

A9. National/International – if you regularly read some widespread newspaper, like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Intenational Herald Tribune, or (maybe) the Washington Post, see if you can find a few reasonable reporters, encourage them as above. At least, in the Web era, they’re easier to watch. Are there any reasonable reporters at the Post? If so, find them, cultivate them. There is, of course, little chance of getting into letters to the editor.
The main international one for me would be The Economist, which actually responds more often than I’d expect.

Summary

Reporters are human and are normally-distributed by abilities. Find average-or-better ones and help them, and don’t expect goodness to happen overnight.

This post, except for the stuff in italics, was written by John Mashey.

Comments

  1. #1 Jc
    October 16, 2007

    Yea , he lost me with this comment.

    Editorial and news really are often quite separate, with the Wall Street Journal as an extreme case. I get it for the numerous excellent articles and rarely look at the Op-ed section, except that every once in a while, they actually say something rational. I once discussed the separation with a Wall Street Journal reporter, who started by saying the Editorial gang were “evil neocon dinosaurs,” then moved to less-unrepeatable things

    I figured after that first para everything he suggested was insincere.It so happens that i have met a couple of the WSJ editorial people when living in NYC- our kids went to the same school. They were everything other than what his insider suggested. It sounded like John was speaking to a disgruntled employee and took that bitterness at face value.

  2. #2 QrazyQat
    October 16, 2007

    In answer to jc, [insert favorite dictator/despot here] loved his [dog/wife/kids/mistress/afternoon soaps/bicycle rides].

  3. #3 John Mashey
    October 16, 2007

    1) The employee was not disgruntled, and was perfectly happy writing for the WSJ, as are a number of other WSJ reporters I interact with.

    The view I described, although perhaps not so colorfully, is supported quite publicly in many places, so this is hardly news, and I was not reasoning from anecdote, I was using a colorful anecdote to illustrate a broadly-held belief, which was especially illustrated in stories about WSJ and Murdoch.

    2) For example, for what it’s worth: [this](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_Street_Journal#Editorial_page)
    has somewhat similar comments.

    “Paul Sperry, in an article titled the “Myth of the Conservative Wall Street Journal”, notes that the news division of the Journal sometimes calls the editorial division “Nazis.” “Fact is”, Sperry writes, “the Journal’s news and editorial departments are as politically polarized as North and South Korea.””

    (And lest you dismiss Paul Sperry as some liberal leftist … he used to be a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution…)

    There is a study claiming that the WSJ’s news pages are amongst the *most* liberal, but there arguments over methodology.

    3) Maybe I should have been more precise, although I thought that was clear in my post, which referenced Op Ed, and Editorial gang referred to them [i.e., Gigot, Henninger, etc]. There are of course other editors.

    Hence:

    a) The editors Jc claims he knew may or may not have been *Op Ed* editors, and may or may not be far-right neocons.

    b) People may have all sorts of views professionally and still be perfectly pleasant socially.

    c) or, Jc may really, really like far-right neocons.

    But, in any case, I think the especially strong separation of editorial and news (that’s generally a GOOD thing) at the WSJ is so well-known that not thinking so indicates a tenuous grasp on reality.

    BTW: just yesterday, the WSJ had a great article on how global warming has helped Canadian wineries (British Columbia, especially around Lake Okanagan) go from being a joke to being competitive.

    There was also an OpEd piece that was more mixed, which actually allowed that global warming was happening, but was pushing albedo-raising geoengineering, interesting+arguable.

    OPINION:
    Personally, I think WSJ *Editorial* no longer even represents a broad spectrum of American business [it certainly doesn't fit Silicon Valley very well]. It doesn’t even do justice the the various wings of the Republican Party, just one of them, and that’s a disservice to business, and politically to the US. For anybody who generally prefers a free-market emphasis when possible, The Economist seems a lot more sensible.

  4. #4 andy
    October 16, 2007

    A very nice post, and I enthusiastically second John’s points.

  5. #5 Jenn
    October 16, 2007

    I am currently reading a very good book from the Union of Concerned Scientists: “A Scientist’s Guide to Talking with the Media.” It’s geared mostly towards the proactive side, i.e. what to do if you’re being interviewed or hoping to get press coverage. Well worth a read if you’re in the “business” (and my praise of this book has nothing to do with the fact that I was given a free copy of it!)

  6. #6 James Stein
    October 16, 2007

    @1, Have you kept up with the WSJ op-ed pages? It’s a perfectly accurate assessment of what they’re running. It was only a couple months ago that SciBlogs exploded with WSJ op-ed creating a best-fit line on a graph where the line *was completely independent of the data points*.

  7. #7 Tony
    October 16, 2007

    JC – Taking what a reporter says at face value is not a sign of insincerity. And it certainly shouldn’t disqualify the rest of what Mashey says. If he had a track record of clearly insincere comments, then maybe so, but there’s no evidence of that in this post.

  8. #8 Ed Darrell
    October 16, 2007

    I figured after that first para everything he suggested was insincere.It so happens that i have met a couple of the WSJ editorial people when living in NYC- our kids went to the same school. They were everything other than what his insider suggested. It sounded like John was speaking to a disgruntled employee and took that bitterness at face value.

    As a former reporter and a former press secretary for a U.S. Senator who had a lot of business with both ends of the Wall Street Journal, I have to say I thought his description was dead on. While I was in D.C., the Journal had oustanding labor reporters, to pick one beat. They were well respected by unions and management, both, and they were fair to parties to a fault. They did lots of gumshoeing for one or two sentences in a short notice, and we paid those short pieces great attention because we could be certain everything there was accurate and important.

    In contrast, the editorial page was populated by neocons, many just out of college, most with no reporting experience, and every one with an axe to grind. To the editorial page, no union was anything but ungrateful, ill-educated and probably criminal thugs. No manager was anything other than a saint working in free enterprise, no matter how many children he poisoned with badly formulated baby formula or tainted sugar water sold as apple juice. Most of the reporters made it clear that they had nothing to do with editorials, and they were clear that they held the editorial bunch in disdain even when they were loyal to the paper and tried to hide their feelings.

    Several people on our staff and other conservative Republican staffs, and other conservative bastions in D.C. eventually cycled through the editorial page staff. I ran into a few of them later, and they made it clear what a pain in the tail they considered the reporting staff.

    If things have changed at the Journal’s editorial page, it’s been recent, and I haven’t seen it. They regularly run really stupid, un-fact-checked opinions by people who really shouldn’t be commenting on some of the topics they comment on. For example, their most recent opinion piece on DDT again mis-stated the status of DDT use to combat malaria; they allowed an “expert” to urge the use of DDT in the U.S. to fight West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes, though no public health official has suggested there is any need, and every mosquito-abatement professional I found pointed out that the species that carry West Nile, culex species, generally are not good candidates for DDT use anyway, since you want to get these buggers as larva, and DDT is absolutely wrong for that application.

    There are exceptions, I suppose. I think Brent Scowcroft’s condemnation of the pending war in Iraq was in the Journal, though I may be misremembering it, and maybe the Times published it instead. But generally, when the editorial page gets something right, it seems to be by accident rather than design. Ideology almost never varies, and they don’t let the facts sway them any differently from their biases, at the editorial department.

    Now, it may have improved a bit with Paul Gigot, for whom I personally have a great deal of respect. But quite frankly, I’ve given up on the editorial page. It’s for propaganda only. It’s a hostile witness in the quest for good opinions, facts and policy decisions. I can deal with a hostile witness at trial, but I never forget that the witness is a hostile witness.

    Snakes are good for keeping the rat population down. That doesn’t mean snakes are harmless.

    Trust the reporting at the Journal, but be wary of the editorial page.

  9. #9 Ken
    October 16, 2007

    Excellent post. Sensible, reasonable and if a weapon is defined as a tool for changing people’s minds, this is the blueprint for an MD of a W.

  10. #10 Robert
    October 16, 2007

    John Mashey:

    Nice post.

  11. #11 Jim Thomerson
    October 16, 2007

    Never joke with a reporter. If you do, it will come back to bite you. Give the reporter the core important information in writing. This will help them get it right. Also makes their job easier. Always think first, then speak.

  12. #12 Dano
    October 16, 2007

    I alsways send a reporter a press advisory. It has bulleted points that summarize the issue. I then follow up with them for any clarification, and I use a sheet to ensure my points get across. I also E-MAIL them compliments and Cc their editor, sometimes Bcc. I have excellent relations with reporters, even though I’m not 100% happy with their output.

    After I send 2-3 letters to editor that get published, I throw ideas at the editor for columns, and then send them outlines of the idea, with complete intro and conclusion and outline in between with first sentences. This has yet to fail.

    I give the folks I advise and consent this same information so they can relate to the press if I find their relations could be improved. Everyone who has received this is happy with their relations with the press.

    Why does this work? I’m helping these folks do their (hard) job and they are usually grateful. I never hold this over their head, for all the reasons John outlines above.

    Excellent post.

    Best,

    D

  13. #13 Jc
    October 16, 2007

    Tony

    Of course John is being insincere.

    Oh my goodness, the WSJ op-ed is rightwing/free market/ open borders. Jeesz Loiuse, you don’t say? They are actually biased?????

    Well of course they’re biased. So is every single media entity in nation and the world. You can’t help having a slant. Look at the fevered leftist swamp of the NYTimes Op-ed. Naturally John thinks they’re not biased. Fme.

    I’m a right/libertarian who can spot left wing bias better than a beagle sniffing around a luggage lounge for coke.

    I actually find the WSJ news to be pretty centrist.

    The op-ed is characterized as Nazi like? F me. What a twat. I would bet no one, not even a Gore loving lunatic could have ever considered the late Bob Bartely (editor) of the op-ed anything other than a mid west gentleman epitomizing all that is good about humanity. Now compare the malignant little creep- Krugman- and tell me his isn’t just as biased for the left.

    Op-eds are baised. all of them are.

  14. #14 Michael Tobis
    October 16, 2007

    Hey, Tim. Greetings from a longish-time admirer. Thanks for the link and the attempted blogrolling. If you could fix the latter I’d be even more appreciative.

    best

  15. #15 Jc
    October 17, 2007

    John Says:

    Personally, I think WSJ Editorial no longer even represents a broad spectrum of American business [it certainly doesn't fit Silicon Valley very well].

    Yep. That’s right the best selling quality paper in the US ought to change it’s Op-ed poltical stripes and become more like the NYT because the valley demands it. Of course the Valley runs America commerce these days.

    ” It doesn’t even do justice the the various wings of the Republican Party, just one of them, and that’s a disservice to business, and politically to the US.”

    Doesn’t matter what the customers think of course. The WSJ should be a public utility now according to John.

    For anybody who generally prefers a free-market emphasis when possible, The Economist seems a lot more sensible.

    Yea right. Now that it has become an unreadable leftist rag.

  16. #16 Nick Barnes
    October 17, 2007

    All sound stuff. I was wondering whether the intelligent, well-spoken, and clear John Mashey here and at RC was the same intelligent, well-spoken, and clear John Mashey I used to encounter on comp.arch and comp.compilers in the very early 90s. This post led me to confirm that it is. Hi, John.

  17. #17 Tim Lambert
    October 17, 2007

    I’ve just deleted a bunch of pointless comments. Please stick to the topic of this post — how to help improve the quality of sceince reporting.

  18. #18 sod
    October 17, 2007

    interesting topic, horrible discussion.

    ratio of Jc posts: 25%, climbing.

  19. #19 Davis
    October 17, 2007

    This is easily the most useful piece I’ve encountered to date on what can be done about the (mostly sorry) state of science reporting. Thanks to both John and Tim for this.

  20. #20 z
    October 17, 2007

    I find JC useful; anything he does NOT characterize as biased for the left, unreadable leftist rag, etc. must be not worth a glance

  21. #21 John Mashey
    October 17, 2007

    Hi Nick. Thanks to you & others for the kind words.

    So, to continue with the real discussion on this,a good example popped up yesterday in a nearby paper (SJMN), which generally accepts AGW and encourages conservation and other measures.

    I quote from a Letter to Editor they printed:

    “ALARMISTS IGNORE SCIENTIFIC FINDINGS
    The Mercury News opinion about Al Gore’s Nobel Prize has one thing right. Global warming is a political, not a scientific issue. Bush’s connection to oil inspires the left to embrace alarmists who consistently confuse a scientific consensus that warming is occurring and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas with a consensus that anthropomorphic (sic) CO2 is the cause of global warming. The science tells that most of the greenhouse effect of CO2 kicks in at low concentrations and that currently most of the energy is already being absorbed. This means that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will do little to increase is greenhouse contribution. Of course, alarmists selectively ignore science that contradicts their political motivation.”

    Now, I have in mind some ideas to to write to the Editor, which I will do in a few hours after I get back from dinner. But, this is a nice test case. How would readers handle this? (I of course know the science part. That isn’t the issue.)

  22. #22 Dano
    October 17, 2007

    John, I’ve seen that LTE meme floating around the last few days. Best to point out the meme and the code phrases and work from there, in my view. Then generally point out the malstated science.

    Best,

    D

  23. #23 Robert
    October 17, 2007

    John Mashey challenged:

    But, this is a nice test case. How would readers handle this?

    Hmmm. In general, I try to tailor my response to the situation, taking into account the audience, the goal, and the methods available. But in the case of Letters to the Editor, I’ve often had difficulty in figuring out who the right audience is. Is it the editor, or the public? I’ll be interested in hearing how you handle this.

  24. #24 Alvaro
    October 19, 2007

    Great post-thanks.

    Two additional suggestions:
    - Always provide context, and ideally some meaningful numbers. What is the history behind the new idea/ paper? how does it relate to previous/ competing theories X,Y, Z? are there some quotable numbers to transmit the importance of what is being discussed from a society point of view? this helps the reporter develop a better global view, trust you as an expert, and better appreciate the value of the research findings.

    - Always think ahead: what are the key 3 points you’d like an informed reader to take-away?. A newspaper is not a university. Neither we, nor the reporter, can transmit everything, but a simplification to make the gist accessible.

    Far from fool-proof, but improves probability of better coverage.

  25. #25 John Fleck
    October 19, 2007

    As one of the reporters under the microscope, I think what John is suggesting here shows an excellent understanding of what we do, what constraints we operate under, and how to usefully work with us. Excellent stuff.

  26. #26 John Mashey
    October 20, 2007

    re: #23

    So, what I did was based on A6 and A8.
    1) I wrote a short LTE explaining that scientists had discovered otherwise in the 1950s, and that CO2 had a lot bigger effect in the arid upper atmosphere.

    Hence, they can print this if they like, but more important.

    2) I added more commentary to the Editor, not for print, politely suggesting that it was not a value-add for a newspaper to be printing 100%-wrong opinions about scientific facts. I referenced a thread in RC.
    I observed that it was impossible for anyone to be an expert at everything, and suggested:

    a) Don’t print opinions about science, especially as 125-word LTEs are just not a useful vehicle.

    b) Or if you want to, really check them out.

    c) Or, recruit some expert helpers for scientific topics, noting that a local university (i.e., Stanford) happens to have plenty of experts, and in this case, there are lots of grad students who could answer this one.

    d) Or, consider recruiting experts to write occasional pieces, or an occasional “Here are some common questions” selected from LTEs, and thus generate some unique, high-quality content for the newspaper.

    In general, the idea is to attempt to help editors do things better in the long-term, rather than fighting every one of these letters when they pop up, again and again.

    I’ll see what, if anything happens.

  27. #27 John Mashey
    October 20, 2007

    re: #23

    So, what I did was based on A6 and A8.
    1) I wrote a short LTE explaining that scientists had discovered otherwise in the 1950s, and that CO2 had a lot bigger effect in the arid upper atmosphere.

    Hence, they can print this if they like, but more important.

    2) I added more commentary to the Editor, not for print, politely suggesting that it was not a value-add for a newspaper to be printing 100%-wrong opinions about scientific facts. I referenced a thread in RC.
    I observed that it was impossible for anyone to be an expert at everything, and suggested:

    a) Don’t print opinions about science, especially as 125-word LTEs are just not a useful vehicle.

    b) Or if you want to, really check them out.

    c) Or, recruit some expert helpers for scientific topics, noting that a local university (i.e., Stanford) happens to have plenty of experts, and in this case, there are lots of grad students who could answer this one.

    d) Or, consider recruiting experts to write occasional pieces, or an occasional “Here are some common questions” selected from LTEs, and thus generate some unique, high-quality content for the newspaper.

    In general, the idea is to attempt to help editors do things better in the long-term, rather than fighting every one of these letters when they pop up, again and again.

    I’ll see what, if anything happens.

  28. #28 John Mashey
    October 20, 2007

    re: #23

    So, what I did was based on A6 and A8.
    1) I wrote a short LTE explaining that scientists had discovered otherwise in the 1950s, and that CO2 had a lot bigger effect in the arid upper atmosphere.

    Hence, they can print this if they like, but more important.

    2) I added more commentary to the Editor, not for print, politely suggesting that it was not a value-add for a newspaper to be printing 100%-wrong opinions about scientific facts. I referenced a thread in RC.
    I observed that it was impossible for anyone to be an expert at everything, and suggested:

    a) Don’t print opinions about science, especially as 125-word LTEs are just not a useful vehicle.

    b) Or if you want to, really check them out.

    c) Or, recruit some expert helpers for scientific topics, noting that a local university (i.e., Stanford) happens to have plenty of experts, and in this case, there are lots of grad students who could answer this one.

    d) Or, consider recruiting experts to write occasional pieces, or an occasional “Here are some common questions” selected from LTEs, and thus generate some unique, high-quality content for the newspaper.

    In general, the idea is to attempt to help editors do things better in the long-term, rather than fighting every one of these letters when they pop up, again and again.

    I’ll see what, if anything happens.

  29. #29 John Mashey
    October 20, 2007

    re: #23

    So, what I did was based on A6 and A8.
    1) I wrote a short LTE explaining that scientists had discovered otherwise in the 1950s, and that CO2 had a lot bigger effect in the arid upper atmosphere.

    Hence, they can print this if they like, but more important.

    2) I added more commentary to the Editor, not for print, politely suggesting that it was not a value-add for a newspaper to be printing 100%-wrong opinions about scientific facts. I referenced a thread in RC.
    I observed that it was impossible for anyone to be an expert at everything, and suggested:

    a) Don’t print opinions about science, especially as 125-word LTEs are just not a useful vehicle.

    b) Or if you want to, really check them out.

    c) Or, recruit some expert helpers for scientific topics, noting that a local university (i.e., Stanford) happens to have plenty of experts, and in this case, there are lots of grad students who could answer this one.

    d) Or, consider recruiting experts to write occasional pieces, or an occasional “Here are some common questions” selected from LTEs, and thus generate some unique, high-quality content for the newspaper.

    In general, the idea is to attempt to help editors do things better in the long-term, rather than fighting every one of these letters when they pop up, again and again.

    I’ll see what, if anything happens.

  30. #30 Robert
    October 20, 2007

    John Mashey wrote:

    So, what I did was based on A6 and A8.

    So, you’re in it for the long game.

    Two things I’ve never been quite clear about are:
    1. Are the editors who handle the LTE the same people who handle news, or who handle the Op-Ed page?
    2. Who reads LTEs?

    It seems your long game is predicated on the idea that the most important consumers of LTEs are (dumb me, I just realized this) the editors.

  31. #31 Dr Zen
    October 22, 2007

    Robert, a large quality newspaper will have a separate editor for LTEs. A quick google came up with this, which you might find interesting: http://www.presscouncil.org.au/pcsite/apcnews/may95/letters.html

    I read LTEs. I find them highly amusing (for instance the Guardian Weekly seems to delight in printing deranged letters) and sometimes informative (New Scientist prints letters that shed a lot of light on some subjects–for a layperson like me, anyway).

  32. #32 Brian Schmidt
    October 26, 2007

    Excellent post, great rules, one disagreement: A8, saying local papers shouldn’t publish LTEs about global warming.

    I agree that local papers should favor LTEs on local news, but if the paper covers climate change, it’s reasonable to publish letters about it. The paper should use some editorial control over incorrect facts though, just as it should over creationism.

  33. #33 John Mashey
    October 27, 2007

    re: #29
    Thanks for the comment. We are actually in agreement, but it shows A8 needed clarification, so here’s a replacement.

    A8. Local papers: small local papers print lots of junk letters, but the best you can usually do is encourage editors NOT to bother printing any letters about global warming, reasoning that arguing that out in the letters to the editor columns of a local paper makes no sense, and they should concentrate on what they do well. Offer to take them out to lunch and talk about this.

    If they actually write good articles on climate change, and have the expertise to evaluate LTEs, then it makes sense to print them.

    Unfortunately, what often happens is the following sequence:
    1) Local paper prints a global warming story, likely sourced elsewhere.

    2) Denialists write LTEs, with usual 100% certainty, spraying non-facts or misleading ones, any of which take longer to refute than to write in the first place, which yields the intended goal, confusion and delay.

    3) Small local papers almost never have the relevant scientific expertise and even large ones rarely do.

    4) Hence, in trying to fight it out with 100-200-word LTEs, one is conceding a huge advantage to confusers.

    ====
    BTW: at the beginning of all this, I made some observations about the WSJ’s OpED section. As a WSJ subscriber, let it not be said that I’m unfair. Yesterday, they printed a fine piece by one of the world’s great people, Norman Borlaug, as far as I know, the only individual scientist to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his science.

  34. #34 Jc
    October 27, 2007

    “As a WSJ subscriber, let it not be said that I’m unfair. Yesterday, they printed a fine piece by one of the world’s great people, Norman Borlaug, as far as I know, the only individual scientist to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his science.”

    Shorter: the WSJ is great when it supports my prejudices, otherwise it’s bad, very, very bad when it doesn’t.

  35. #35 John Mashey
    October 29, 2007

    1) I attended Dow Jones VentureWire AlternativeEnergy conference last week, and it was quite good:
    http://alternativeenergy.dowjones.com/, with a fine set of speakers:
    http://alternativeenergy.dowjones.com/Default.aspx?pageid=147
    including the CTO of Chevron and the CEO of PG&E (the large utility that does gas/electric for Central/Northern California).
    (Dow Jones, of course, is the publisher of the WSJ).

    2) Today at the WSJ, “The Journal Report” section was “Handicapping the Environmental Gold Rush”, and it was pretty good, straightforward analysis of businesses trying to make money doing sensible things, articles on house energy audits, oil company work on biofuels, etc.

    3) And, pursuant to #26, I don’t know if that had anything to with the decision to print this, but today, the SJMN devoted the entire Opinion page to a Sept 26 interview called
    “Global warming takes center stage – public and private leaders focus on new challenge”
    where SJMN Editorial Page Editor Stephen E. Wright interviewed CA Attorney General Jerry Brown and VMware CEO Diane Greene, basically about what things government and privates companies can do. Jerry is pretty famous.

    VMware (founded by Diane and her husband) does virtualization software that reduces the number of server computers needed; in fact, PGE actually offers rebates for virtualization, because they discovered it saved more electricity than some of their other programs. We had dinner with them a couple weeks ago, and talked some about this, but it is great to even more show up in the newspaper.

  36. #36 Susan Anderson
    December 15, 2008

    Thanks very much for the interesting and informative article. I got to you via DotEarth, then Ike Solem, then you. But the internet works both ways, doesn’t it. Nice to see some familiar names. Dano, I had no idea you could be so civil. Am planning to see if a person only partially trained in science can read the UCS book. And as far as I know, the Economist is a bit centrist, tends to make it easy for those who are uncomfortable elsewhere. Personally, I have come to favor McClatchy which has breaking news on the environment all the time.

  37. #37 Dano
    December 15, 2008

    Susan, I treat the shills and PR people on DotEarth much differently than I treat commenters in other places; the shills there deserve scorn and derision.

    Best,

    D

  38. #38 nelloe
    December 30, 2008

    It seems like the pr team at the Wall Street Journal were quick to sign onto this post and defend themselves. Typical.

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