Christian Science Monitor Screws The Pooch Big Time

Today, the Christian Science Monitor published on their web site a piece, Global luke-warming: Is the threat of climate change overstated? by James Stafford. It is an interview with climate science denialist Anthony Watts, in which Watts gives his usual argument that climate change is not important. Well, not his actual usual argument, because he has several different conflicting things to say about climate change, ranging from it isn't happening it's actually cooling to it is only warming a little to yeah, it's warming a lot but we'll adapt.

The thing is, interviewing a denialist like Watts about climate in a mainstream news outlet, even if it is just a guest blog, is a little like interviewing a Bigfoot Expert about wildlife conservation or zoology. I don't know what possessed Stafford or the CSM do to this.

Don't be surprised if once the editorial staff realizes what they've done there is some sort of retract or some other remedy. Or at least, let us hope so for the sake of what is otherwise a reasonably good source of national and international news and opinion.

More like this

These things are all connected. A couple of days ago a good ally in the climate change fight ... the fight to make people realize that climate change is not some librul conspiracy to raise taxes on the rich ... goofed. It was a minor goof, barely a goof at all. We do not yet know the nature of the…
That crank pseudoscience site, Watt's Up With That, got thoroughly reamed out with the video below (just the fact that the chief crackpot, Anthony Watts, would show up on Glenn Beck's show is indictment enough, though). Watt was not too happy with his public evisceration, however, and scurried off…
You may know the blog What's Up With That. It is Anthony Watt's anti-science blog, dedicated to climate change denialism. A current post reports the finding of life forms from another planet, in a meteorite. This looks to be a huge story, the first evidence of extraterrestrial life, if it holds…
I know, right? Anthony Watts, of the science-denialist Whats Up with That blog, has got his shorts in a knot because of a post I wrote indicating that he is a boob. He is upset because in a screen shot of him talking about a totally absurd pseudo-scientific claim that should have been rejected out…

IMO this sort of thing is mainly a consequence of journalists seeing themselves in a social mediation role. ("Yeah they're probably wrong but they deserve a voice.") But with enough pushback such things can be put out of bounds, and palpably is as time goes on as such things used to be far more common.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 13 Mar 2013 #permalink

Just to add, it's no small irony that the threat is in fact considerably understated by the media, although that tendency too is (slowly) improving.

Also, it's possible this interview owes its existence to the PBS Newshour piece of a couple months ago. They give each other permission.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 13 Mar 2013 #permalink

"IMO this sort of thing is mainly a consequence of journalists seeing themselves in a social mediation role. (“Yeah they’re probably wrong but they deserve a voice.”) But with enough pushback such things can be put out of bounds, and palpably is as time goes on as such things used to be far more common."

However, journalism isn't that much of a social mediation role. They do define limits to acceptable opinion.

I'm too lazy to Google, but I imagine that the haven't published similar articles saying:
That Bush and Cheney be tried for torture and other crimes.
That high-level Wall St criminals should be put in prison for long terms, naming names and discussing the corruption in the US political system which aids and abets them.
Pointing out that freshwater macro has been wrong, repeatedly so, showing just what big names have been lying time after time.

And so on.

Different opinions are what make the world go round. Too much desert isn't a meal. Without a balance of opinions on either side of the discussion--regardless of the extremes visited in the debate--there is little learning. Such sharing becomes a forum for stroking each others' same opinion, and that loses useful objectivity. The CS Monitor has tried to get and give a wide verity of thoughts to its readers believing that the readers have the intelligence to draw their own conclusions. Its Pulitzer Prizes over the past century are indicative of the success of its most important focus--to benefit all mankind and to injure no man. Without a variety of fact and opinion, no useful conclusions will be drawn.

By Don Griffith (not verified) on 14 Mar 2013 #permalink

Don, no.

Having Anthony Watt's "opinion" as part of a serious conversation about climate change is not useful at all. The outright rejection of professional science denialists from a conversation about actual science is in now way stroking. It is a necessary step in actually having the conversation.

The truth is, the mainstream press is already on board with this. The CSM's web site made a mistake. I doubt this level of error would have made it into the CSM itself, but this is a guest blog and guest blogs are not under the same editorial oversight as other areas of an organization like CSM.

Not only that, but CSM is the home of the lazy advertorial anyway - Pulitzer prizes or no. AW is just the icing on that little cupcake.