[Coral-List] Global Warming Theoryscine

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Fri Mar 6 09:28:45 EST 2009

I must speak in defense of science journalists.  I am a member of the 
(U.S.) National Association of Science Writers and the Society of 
Environmental Journalists.  Most of my colleagues in both organizations 
do damned fine reporting on climate change and other issues.  Many could 
do even better if they received more cooperation from scientists who are 
"too busy" to talk to such riffraff as news people.  (Many of you are 
wonderful sources, but that is far from a universal attribute.)

"Review" of news articles -- if you mean something like peer review in 
science -- is a proposal that is dead BEFORE arrival.  Journalists are 
supposed to be independent sources of information -- if we are not, we 
have no reason for being, for there are plenty of highly paid 
propagandists eager to make even more money telling the public that 
cigarettes are safe, that coal is clean, that evolution is "just" a 
theory, etc., etc., etc.

To illustrate what a disaster that "review" of news articles would be, 
imagine having to allow Bernard Madoff's people review all news 
publications that refer to his [alleged] Ponzi scheme that cost 
investors around the world billions (in whatever currency you choose). 
For another example, imagine what progress the U.S. civil rights 
movement would have made if newspapers had to allow the Ku Klux Klan or 
the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission review any articles about 
lynchings or missing civil rights workers.

A lot of the garbage about climate change that does appear in the news 
media does not come from science journalists.  It appears in op-ed pages 
(such as George Will), or comes out of the mouths of people that I have 
a hard time thinking of as a journalist (such as Glenn Beck).

Traditional news organizations do have problems: upper-level management 
more focused on profit rather than mission; editors with little aptitude 
or interest in science; cutbacks in reporting staff or in space (or 
time) devoted to science and environment news.  In the U.S., some 
prominent science sections in daily newspapers have been eliminated. 
What's worse, some daily newspapers (in cities like San Francisco and 
Seattle) are on the verge of being eliminated.  Science and environment 
journalists have no control over these phenomena.

Don't forget the fact of a populace (audience) with a fragile command of 
basic scientific concepts.  Add to that a populace with relatively 
little interest in basic science constantly bombarded by tripe from 
political leaders with little grasp of reality (for example Louisiana 
Gov. Bobby Jindal, who thinks a volcano observatory in a tectonically 
active area is pork spending; or U.S. Sen. John McCain who, judging from 
some of his mutterings on Twitter, thinks a lot of basic and applied 
scientific research likewise equals pork spending).

The debate (sniping?) between journalists and scientists has gone on a 
long time, and will continue to go on.  I have to get on, too, but will 
be happy to participate in discussions of how to improve cooperation 
between scientists and journalists and, ultimately, the quality of 
science and environment reporting that appears in today's rapidly 
changing media landscape.



Tim Wijgerde wrote:
> Dear Steve,
> I fully agree with your views. 99% of all
> scientific publications supports the theory of global warming. Only 50% of
> all popular-scientific publications does the same. I believe this has to
> do with scientific passiveness. We cannot simply publish in Nature or
> Science and let the science journalists take over; scientists will have to
> publish in these areas as well. At least make sure there is some sort of
> review process that ensures scientific views are expressed correctly in
> the media.
> I still hope that more scientists will support
> projects such as ours (Coral Science), which allows scientists to publish
> their views in an understandable way to a large public. In the end, a
> popular-scientifc article will receive a lot more attention compared to
> the average scientific publication. That's just reality. But you can use
> it to your advantage. 
> We are open to manuscripts (and we have
> some nice stories in the pipeline, thanks to scientists such as Dr.
> Fenner, Dr. van Oppen and  Dr. Houlbreque).
> Best
> Tim
> coralscience.org

  David M. Lawrence        | Home:  (804) 559-9786
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