On November 25, Politico.com published an article entitled "Scientists urge caution on global warming." On November 26, a Letter to the Editor by Russ Walker, executive editor, and David Roberts, staff writer, of Grist Magazine was published there commenting on the article. A response to this letter from Politico.com editor, Jeanne Cummings, followed this letter. Unfortunately the editor's response shows a complete lack of understanding of the issues involved and fails to address most of the issues raised in the Walker-Roberts letter.
For example, Cummings' initial sentence in her response was "Giving voice to the losing side of a national debate is often fraught with peril." This completely fails to acknowledge that it is the responsibility of journalists to report the truth, particularly where issues of science are being discussed. The issue here can/will not be resolved by a national debate. It is a matter of scientific truth that will only be settled by scientists by evaluating the research of other scientists whose work has been published in peer-reviewed journals. At this time, the consensus of the climate change research is that global warming is ongoing and is, in large measure, human caused.
A critical issue that Cummings failed to address at all in her response was that, in the main, journalists appear to fail to understand that not everyone who wants to talk to them about an issue has the credentials to do so. They make no attempt to establish the credentials of those they quote on scientific issues, and do not seem to feel the need to do so. Therefore a weatherman, such as the one quoted in the original article, is accepted as a valid voice, given equal weight with the scientists who have spent their careers studying climate change. And moving quotes around within articles is not sufficient to balance the imbalance in credibility. For instance, no notice was taken of the sponsors of the event, something that should surely have given the reporter pause. A simple Google search would have shown the "Global Warming Petition Project" to have been debunked previously. See the Wikipedia article among many others.
And, as a final point, neither was there link given to the original article or was a link placed on the original article to the letter to the editor. Not only is this just plain bad journalism but it exhibits a lack of understanding as to how the new media can be best used!
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