Society of Environmental Journalists … lockstep in an appalling beat of bias?

“I am writing simply to express my support for the mission of the Society of Environmental Journalists. I am convinced that it is a worthwhile — even a necessary — organization. And in my lexicon, ‘necessary’ is one of the highest possible forms of praise.”

— Bill McKibben, author (Source)

Such glowing praise from well-known Drama Queen, Bill McKibben is somewhat at odds with the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ)’s depiction of itself as an organization whose “vision and mission” include:

Vision

Credible and robust journalism that informs and engages society on environmental issues.

Mission

The mission of the Society of Environmental Journalists is to strengthen the quality, reach and viability of journalism across all media to advance public understanding of environmental issues.

SEJ provides critical support to journalists of all media in their efforts to cover complex issues of the environment responsibly […]

If you take a look at the bios of their Board and staff, you may detect that there is rather a distinct “green” bias in the leadership of the SEJ that is difficult to overlook.

In case you’re wondering how my mouse and I landed in this wonderland, I “blame” Dr. Judith Curry whose post today, suggests that the SEJ has finally discovered “The world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change” aka Watts Up With That (WUWT) (not that the SEJ described it in quite this way!) – as well as Curry’s own blog, which they describe as follows:

Judith Curry’s blog, Climate Etc., is an exception to the stereotype of denier blogs. Curry is a real climate scientist with strong credentials. Among other things, she is chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Committed to reason, evidence, and open inquiry, she is willing to examine legitimate points the climate skeptics may be making — as well as the evidence and arguments from mainstream climate science.

In response to which, Curry wryly observed:

Ok, it looks like we now have a new definition of climate change denier […] As far as I can tell, the SEJ is a reputable organization. However, I find much of their article to be rather appalling. Not to mention the fact that they left out a number of good blog sources, that are arguably better than DeepClimate […] (emphasis added -hro)

The section Curry had quoted is from what SEJ calls “Climate Change: A Guide to the Information and Disinformation” – much of which does not appear to have been updated since Feb. 2009. Here’s the intro to their (Feb. 2009) section on “Skeptics and Contrarians”:

As scientific evidence has accumulated that the planet is warming and that humans are behind it, many previous skeptics have been won over.

In their dreams, no doubt!

And here’s an item from their “Editorial Guidelines

3. EJToday is looking for a mix of the most important, exemplary, and interesting stories that come to our attention on any given day. Newsworthiness in the traditional sense is a key to getting a story included. […] we are also looking for stuff that is interesting […] and especially investigative stories.[…]

SEJ’s idea of “Outstanding Coverage” is beyond bias. It certainly calls into question what their idea of “exemplary” and “investigative” might be – as do the search results on “Gleick”. Their top result was oh-so-thoughtfully compiled by DeSmog’s Littlemore. So you can well imagine how “objective” this turned out to be!

Needless to say, SEJ are very fond of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its “Nobel Laureate” peddler of purple prose Chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri. And I can’t imagine how they might have missed it, but SEJ’s search engine turns up zilch on “Almora” (as in The IPCC’s Love Guru).

A search on InterAcademy Council (IAC) yields a mere two items – one was an announcement of its review of the IPCC, and the second a brief and uninformative newswire piece, from Augst 2010 – in which the misleading reference to “Nobel Prize-winning IPCC” can be found.

[Sidebar: Any bets on how many newbie enviro-journos (or unsuspecting members of the public, for that matter) would realize that this was a Nobel Peace Prize – not a Nobel Prize for any scientific endeavour or achievement?

Oh, well, what more could one expect from an organization that chooses to bill one of its 2010 conference plenary speakers as “Nobel laureate climate scientist Steve Running”?! Accuracy does not seem to be part of SEJ’s agenda, does it?!]

But this page did include (although I’m not entirely sure how this might have crept in) a “see also” link to a more informative piece by the Christian Science Monitor – which contained the following from Dr. Roger Pielke Jr:

Taken as a whole, the report and its recommendations are “remarkably hard-hitting,” says Roger Pielke Jr., who specialized in science policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It’s not at all the rap on the knuckles that some commentators had expected.”

Assuming the recommendations are adopted as a package, and not picked over, “this could mark the moment when climate science joins the 21st century as far as science advice is concerned,” Dr. Pielke says. “It’s had some practices that were too ad hoc for its prominent role.”

Unfortunately, as the intervening years continue to show, for all intents and purposes, the IPCC opted for “picked over” – almost beyond recognition in some instances. IOW, the IPCC chose business as usual. But I digress …

While a search of the SEJ site does not yield any results for (Andrew) “Montford”, (Donna) “Laframboise” or (Ross) “McKitrick”, it does yield one result for “Steve McIntyre”: A pathetic little 2012 piece by USA Today‘s Mann-fan, Dan Vergano.

In short, I find that SEJ’s “Vision”:

Credible and robust journalism that informs and engages society on environmental issues.

is very cloudy – if not fog-inducing – and far from “credible”. Although it is within the realm of possibility that (in the noble tradition of those dedicated to “the cause”), they’ve redefined “credible”.

In fairness, though, I should note that there was considerable coverage of Climategate; however, of the half dozen or so pieces I skimmed, most were predictably, well, not worth reading! The one notable exception, was a piece by Bill Dawson, assistant editor of SEJ’s quarterly SEJournal. In this July 2010 (presumed excerpt from the print edition) entitled How the U.S. Media Fumbled “Climategate” and Other Climate Coverage, Dawson relays E-mail interviews with four correspondents, one of whom was SEJ Board member, Tom Yulsman. In response to Dawson’s:

What did you see in the way of opinion pieces — editorials, op-eds, blogs — in the non-national media?

Yulsman wrote:

I don’t have hard evidence for how Climategate played in local and regional media. But I can make the obvious observation that specialist reporters, including science and environmental reporters, have been among the hardest hit by the layoffs that have decimated the ranks of journalists. […]

We should also keep in mind that most people still get their news from local television. And the only people in local television who might be inclined to cover these issues, and theoretically, at least, have at least a modicum of knowledge about the issues, are meteorologists. But mostly, they spend their time telling their viewers what temperature it is outside and whether it’s raining, snowing or sunny. As if we can’t figure that out for ourselves by looking outside and going online.

So I don’t believe most Americans actually got much in the way of news about Climategate from local and regional media.

They did hear a lot about it, though. From the blogosphere.

[…]

So Climategate and global warming in general have been an issue of major discourse in society. And, in fact, some major national news outlets, such as The New York Times, gave it quite a bit of attention (but generally screwed up the story as badly as can be imagined). But mostly, American news media seem to have all but ignored the issues.

Although Yulsman doesn’t articulate what “the issues” might be, this may well have been the beginning of all the hand-wringing and moaning about “engaging the public” that seems to have become an almost weekly ritual, of late!

Not to worry, though, the SEJ is gearing up to board the Chattanooga Choo-Choo for its 23rd annual conference in October. Under the “banner” of the immortal words of no less a luminary than E.O. Wilson,

SEJ-Wilson-banner

this five-day conference will address the theme of … wait for it … Got Sustainability?. Be sure to check out the conference brochure (pdf). Here are the topics of their “climate” panels:

• Climate Change and Media Coverage: Have We Blown It?
• Is Climate Change the Moral and Ethical Dilemma of Our Times?
• All Weather Is Local: Bringing Climate Change Closer to Home
• Super Storms, Tornadoes and Droughts, Climate and Deadly Weather

And lots of other “responsible” scary stuff, of course!

Footnote:

While I was perusing the SEJ site, I came across the following in the “Staying up to date on climate news: Publications to follow” section of their “Climate Change Guide”:

The Guardian: Climate News

The Guardian does more environmental coverage than almost any newspaper on the planet, and they send reporters to international climate events even when most other newspapers stay home. They have a boisterous and popular tone, a bit of a liberal tilt, and a predilection for cute puppy stories, but their reporters are serious and break stories others don’t have the grit for. Being Brits, they do not suck up to the U.S. government.

How “engaging” and “responsible” – and professional – is that, eh?! By contrast, as I had noted above, in the section where they had recognized Anthony Watts’ WUWT, they seemed to be holding their nose in order to … uh … sustain their carefully cultivated (but fact-free)”stereotype”. Here’s what they had written in their “News from the climate wars” section on this same page (in which they had also mentioned Curry’s blog):

Watts Up With That

Watts Up With That is one of the more civil and well-read of the denier blogs. It is not reliable as a source of factual information. It does not disclose its funding sources. Anthony Watts, its proprietor, has worked as a broadcast weatherman for years but has no degree.

There’s a post today at WUWT, in which Watts, citing Andrew Montford at Bishop Hill wrote:

The Guardian has thrown all my preconceptions into disarray by printing an article about sceptics that is not only thoughtful, but is polite too!

Sceptics such as Andrew Montford and Anthony Watts agree with the mainstream view that the greenhouse effect brings about atmospheric warming as a result of carbon emissions, but dispute levels of climate sensitivity. However, others offer far more fundamental challenges to climate science, such as fringe sceptic group Principia Scientific who reject this orthodox view of atmospheric physics.

This Guardian article was by Warren Pearce, who had already sent the army of alarmist lesser-lights into an absolute tizzy because he had recently committed the cardinal sin of posting a devastating guest-essay by skeptic Ben Pile on Pearce’s University of Nottingham blog, Making Science Public.

So as “gobsmacked” – and appreciative – as Watts acknowledged he was for Pearce’s article in the Guardian, I’m inclined to suspect this may well pale in comparison to the reactions – and lack of appreciation – behind closed screens at the SEJ. So here’s a little something to cheer them up – as they contemplate the journey from their Pennsylvania home-base to Chattanooga;-)

11 thoughts on “Society of Environmental Journalists … lockstep in an appalling beat of bias?

  1. Agree with yer ‘view from here’ Hilary.

    Here’s my take on the attack on ‘denier’ blogs:

    Closed society ‘C’ words that have no place in science:
    ‘Certainty Consensus Censorship Controlling the message Conditioning’.

    Open society words that do:
    ‘Scepticism Scientific method Socratic intellectual honesty Sharing
    methodologyansd suffering criticism Scrupulouslly specifying problems
    and doubt.’

    Beth the serf.

    • Thanks, Beth … and I think you’ve summed things up quite succinctly, as you so often do (while making me smile!) …

      You know, if only these guys would listen to and learn from us plebes, they could make their lives so much easier, eh?

  2. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 31 July 2013 | grumpydenier

    • Thanks, Dennis. I remember seeing this, way back when! Revkin continues to show his advocacy colours, doesn’t he?! For example, see my:

      Revkin screens out cops’ Climategate screening exercises

      In which I had observed his confirmation bias and/or advocacy in action, including his remarkable alacrity in amending the headline of a 2010 blogpost on the strength of a (misleading) news release from Norfolk’s finest. As I had noted in my subsequent:

      Of journalists, their sources and … evidence:

      This same “deference” is apparently bestowed on News Releases which accord with Revkin’s narrative(s) – without requiring any further exploration. As I had noted in my post, Revkin seemed to be unaware of a subsequent Q & A from the Norfolk Constabulary which clearly indicated that it was only through the application of “screening fallacies” that they were able to “conclude” – as Revkin had dutifully reported:

      “There is no evidence to suggest that anyone working at or associated with the University of East Anglia was involved in the crime.”

      Surely, once I had made him aware of their subsequent clarification:

      “Generally speaking, it was a screening exercise which did not provide any positive lines of enquiry.

      “Whilst – because we have not found the perpetrators – we cannot say categorically that no-one at the UEA is involved, there is no evidence to suggest that there was. The nature and sophistication of the attack does not suggest that it was anyone at the UEA.” [emphasis added -hro]

      this would have warranted an update to those posts in which he had quoted from – and cited – the July 18, 2012 News Release.

      Alas, my expectations must be too high. Revkin did grace my previous post with a reply in which he noted that a link to the Q & A would be “helpful”. Why Revkin didn’t ask for this when he tagged my comment on his blog as an “NYT Pick” is left as an exercise for the reader – as is his apparent inability to find it for himself […]

      So here we are more than one year later and he still hasn’t made any corrections to his posts. Clearly in Revkin’s books, “accuracy” is superceded by “advocacy”. I wonder if this is a maxim he’s “teaching” his students!

      But the EJN must be quite prosperous:

      Sponsors and Partners

      The activities of the Earth Journalism Network have been funded by the Marisla Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation, the Robert & Michelle Friend Foundation, the Germeshausen Foundation, the Flora Family Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Kendeda Fund, the Christensen Fund, the Oak Foundation, the Smart Family Foundation, the Edgerton Family Foundation, the European Commission, the UK Department for International Development, the Swedish International Development Agency, the United Nations Foundation, the UN Environment Program, the World Bank, the European Commission, the Alumni Fund of the Philanthropy Workshop West at the Tides Foundation and an anonymous donor from the Rockefeller family.

      EJN has strategic partnerships with […] the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) in the US, […]

      I wonder if one of their activities is to “train” pseudonymous trolls on how to pollute otherwise intelligent, informed conversations, in the blogosphere ;-)

  3. Dear Hilary,

    Please forgive this interruption of your excellent site, but, I will not post anymore on a W.E. thread on WUWT and just had to respond to your excellent refutation of WE’s nonsense. What a FINE writer you are, powerful, articulate, and devastatingly precise and thorough. You go, girl!

    You (I just add this for clarity — I think you were being sarcastic) did not mislead me in ANY way with your first post on that thread. I had read WE’s fiasco of a “letter” already and your post was almost exactly (plus more great insights I never thought of) what I thought as I read his “letter.”

    Thanks for the privilege of using your pleasant first name. Please, call me Janice. (on THAT thread, I felt it important to accord you as much respect as I could!)

    Your fan from WUWT,

    Janice

    ———- BACK TO THE DISCUSSION! #[:)]

    • Hi Janice,

      Welcome to my quiet little corner of the blogosphere – and thanks so much for your kind words (here and elsewhere!)

      Sarcastic? Moi?! Never … Well … hardly ever! And this was definitely one of those times. But, as you know, it wasn’t directed at you or Pamela; rather I was using a little “rhetorical trick” I had picked up from our favourite poster who seems to have an inordinate fondness for the sound of his own voice -particularly when he’s playing very disrespectful “games” of self-justification and glorification!

      Imagine! All that effort and “carefully chosen” words; all because he thinks it’s important to discuss his theory of something or other related to an un-PC notion; a notion that I would have thought to be completely off-topic for WUWT.

      But what do I know, eh? After all, I don’t get “a million page views a year”;-)

      Cheers,
      Hilary

    • Thank you, Hilary, glad to be here. And, you are very welcome.

      YOU know a lot. A certain snarling narcissist with exhibitionist tendencies appears to lack insight into his own condition.

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