Love the title of that post! Keith Kloor tries to defend journalism’s role in fiascos like “Swifthack” (aka Climategate) and climate science in general but really ends up simply providing a perfect example of the problem.
I urge any and all to read the comment thread, it is an excellent and fascinating one, though I am only about a third of the way through. Great contributions from Things Break and Michael Tobis, appearnces by Andrew Revkin and Judith Curry.
It is still going on though I would wager it’s utility has diminished to near zero (I could be wrong).
I would like very much to highlight one well written and well reasoned comment from Michael by quoting it in its entirety:
Let’s acknowledge that there is a divergence of political philosophy about which American-style journalism needs to remain neutral. I don’t want to discuss that model here; let’s accept it for the moment. I want to focus on matters of objective reasoning, without prejudice to matters which are legitimately in the sphere of debate as to values, preferences, goals, ideals etc.
Raven and AMac are smart folk and I am willing to believe that they are well-intentioned, but I assert with confidence that they are really quite thoroughly wrong about matters of evidence and reason. A priori since they say essentially the same about me, we can probably agree that somebody, anyway, is quite thoroughly wrong.
The events of the past few years and especially the last few months have made it absolutely clear that when there are such disagreements, it is the job of journalism to get to the bottom of it.
For instance, the assertion that Obama was born in Kenya is incoherent with the evidence. The press has correctly made that judgment and has moved on. This is a useful data point, I suppose. We have found how ridiculous an assertion has to be before the press makes a judgment.
In the present case, we have a matter of enormous consequence. It matters a great deal whether (insert list of every major scientific body on earth) is correct or Raven is correct. This is a topic where objective evidence applies. It seems the press is confusing objectivity with indifference.
I am not saying you guys (Keith, Andy as representative) are uninterested in the question. Clearly that’s not the case. But you seem uninterested in resolving the parts of it that are already quite resolvable and moving on. As long as there is controversy, you report on the protagonists (as in Lindzen vs Emanuel or Gore vs Will) and not on the credibility of their positions. By doing so, you essentially promote the incorrect set of opinions (whichever that might turn out to be) and prevent the conversation from moving forward. This is the opposite of your role in society. This is why you have failed. This is why I am angry. And this is why I am looking not just for new business models for science and nature journalism, but for ways to encourage new practitioners who have deeper connections to the scientific worldview.
Science makes progress. Society used to do so as well, largely as a consequence. I believe that the failure of science journalism to effectively communicate and model the intellectual progress of science plays a large role in the decline and arguably the reversal of progress in society.
A suitable occasion for examining the role of the press is at hand. Please re-examine your collective role in the CRU email fiasco in the light of who is mostly doing science and who is mostly doing politics. Consider how these minor embarassments are being played in some circles as the “collapse” of the “hoax”.
The role of the press in the larger context is crucial. You are not passive observers and never have been. Since the mass press was invented, nobody has believed for an instant that it was anything but a major player in power politics. Stop hiding behind that pose, please, and take responsibility appropriate to the gravity of the situation.
In short, please stop acting indifferent to who is right and who is wrong on matters of substance.