On NYT’s Climate Change Coverage

The fact that a majority of the Times‘ science section’s editorial staff doesn’t think anthropogenic climate change is a threat is most certainly not good, although I think the graph is a little bit of an oversell. I’m not so much concerned with making sure the Times keeps their climate change article quota up to the mandatory minimum as I am worried what this whole thing might suggest about which way institutional pressures are pushing media coverage of the issue.

Think of it this way: climate change skeptics are inevitably going to get more coverage in the press because one lonely voice barking against the overwhelming scientific consensus is inevitably more newsworthy than another peer-reviewed paper confirming some version of what the vast majority of the author’s colleagues already agree on. Plus–although I don’t want to exaggerate the effect of this–there’s the whole thing about business incentives.

That story’s already been told. But this new info makes me think that it might be contributing to another problem: when you’ve got a staff of reporters who are not themselves experts in climate science forming their opinions from interviewing both sides–and when a disproportionate number of the people they’re interviewing happen to be skeptics who might themselves be pretty persuasive–it makes sense that the staff might find themselves brought around to that view.

I’m not sure what can be done about something like that. Except for to note, again, that it would be nice if the people reporting on specialized topics for major dailies all had some pretty extensive background knowledge in those topics.

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