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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 11/16/2004 :  09:31:52  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
Chris Mooney has written an excellent article, "Blinded by Science," which points out the traps journalists can step into when attempting to write a "balanced" story about scientific issues. Good reading.
[Edited to fix link - Dave W.]

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 11/16/2004 :  10:02:01   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.

Chris Mooney has written an excellent article, "Blinded by Science," which points out the traps journalists can step into when attempting to write a "balanced" story about scientific issues. Good reading.



This is actually a huge problem. Mooney's treatment of the climate-change issue is central to his discussion and indeed, the media's utterly incompetant handling of the debate is in large part the reason why this country is doing too little right now in that area:

quote:
In a recent paper published in the journal Global Environmental Change, the scholars Maxwell T. Boykoff and Jules M. Boykoff analyzed coverage of the issue in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times between 1988 and 2002. During this fourteen-year period, climate scientists successfully forged a powerful consensus on human-caused climate change. But reporting in these four major papers did not at all reflect this consensus.

The Boykoffs analyzed a random sample of 636 articles. They found that a majority — 52.7 percent — gave “roughly equal attention” to the scientific consensus view that humans contribute to climate change and to the energy-industry-supported view that natural fluctuations suffice to explain the observed warming. By comparison, just 35.3 percent of articles emphasized the scientific consensus view while still presenting the other side in a subordinate fashion. Finally, 6.2 percent emphasized the industry-supported view, and a mere 5.9 percent focused on the consensus view without bothering to provide the industry/skeptic counterpoint.


It's a position I've maintained for years now, but I'll ask it again after reading this: can there be any doubt that our media are utterly incompetent? Indeed, I'd like to go a step further and suggest that the vapid nature of our press corps has played no small role in the rise of the Right in this country over the last 10-15 years.

As long as citizens think that it's OK for our President to dismiss climate change because there's just not enough proof, we're in trouble.
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 11/16/2004 :  11:28:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Cuneiformist

It's a position I've maintained for years now, but I'll ask it again after reading this: can there be any doubt that our media are utterly incompetent?
Yes, there can be doubt.

Seriously, I wouldn't call the media "incompetent" any more than, for example, I would call the Soviet's crack troops at the height of the Cold War "incompetent." Journalists tend to be very competent at their jobs, they're just aiming towards goals which are at odds with the goals of science (like Soviet troops had goals contrary to ours).
quote:
Indeed, I'd like to go a step further and suggest that the vapid nature of our press corps has played no small role in the rise of the Right in this country over the last 10-15 years.
This, on the other hand, I don't doubt.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 11/16/2004 :  11:57:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
The media, virtually all of it, claims to be "fair and objective." This might or might not be true, depending upon which bias one might prefer.

On the other hand, since when was science ever "fair?" When did science ever give equal time to proven idiotcy?


"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 11/16/2004 :  13:01:12   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.
Seriously, I wouldn't call the media "incompetent" any more than, for example, I would call the Soviet's crack troops at the height of the Cold War "incompetent." Journalists tend to be very competent at their jobs, they're just aiming towards goals which are at odds with the goals of science (like Soviet troops had goals contrary to ours).


I disagree. To some extent, anyhow. Sure, journalists have different aims than science. But if their goal is to report news in a way that accurately reflects reality (or something similar), then we should be hearing things reported differently. In the article you cited, the author quotes the rather keen observation by Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider:
quote:
A climate scientist faced with a reporter locked into the ‘get both sides' mindset risks getting his or her views stuffed into one of two boxed storylines: ‘we're worried' or ‘it will all be okay.' And sometimes, these two ‘boxes' are misrepresentative; a mainstream, well-established consensus may be ‘balanced' against the opposing views of a few extremists, and to the uninformed, each position seems equally credible.” (emph. mine)
This is important. If a viewer is uneducated about an issue, simply seeing a lone dissenter suggests that she represents as many people as does the advocate. By phrasing the climate debate as a he-said-she-said issue, people are getting a story that is misleading. That seems rather incompetent to me.

Similarly, during this election cycle how many times was a story phrased as a disagreement between sides when in fact it was a disagreement between a true statement and a false one? For instance, the claim that Kerry was the Congress' "most liberal Senator" is a distortion at best, but more accurately a lie. However, Bush and Cheney repreatedly made this claim. A competent press corps would have done its homework and, when reporting the President's lies, noted how it was a distortion. By the same token, we wouldn't honestly expect to hear "the President today announced that there is no such thing as gravity. The Kerry camp disputes this claim. And now, on to sports with Bill Jakowski. Bill?"

Why is climate change (or political distortions) any different?
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 11/16/2004 :  14:03:05   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
Because gravity is - more or less - self evident. Political distortions aren't, as they may be based upon things said a dozen years ago. Climate change even less so, since it noticably occurs only over decades.

The problem is that most reporters covering science stories aren't well-versed in science. That doesn't make them incompetent reporters, it makes them incompetent scientists. As you emphasized in that quote, the reporters themselves are often uninformed.

Editors and management (yours truly excluded, of course ) are even less likely to be informed on a particular issue, and are looking at what'll sell. And given the current entertainment climate today, what sells is controversy.

Wait. Re-reading your message. Perhaps you're right. "The media," as a huge conglomeration driven largely by corporate needs, is incompetent at reporting science. Individual reporters may not be - given the freedom to investiagte as they see fit - but they're constrained to do as their bosses desire.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 11/19/2004 :  21:51:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Dave W.
Wait. Re-reading your message. Perhaps you're right. "The media," as a huge conglomeration driven largely by corporate needs, is incompetent at reporting science. Individual reporters may not be - given the freedom to investiagte as they see fit - but they're constrained to do as their bosses desire.
I really do think this is my point. Most of the media, like any business, have a bottom line: money. That's fine, of course-- we're in a free market society so that's OK. But what gets pushed to the side in reporting, I think, is often the fair representation of reality, be it science, a political issue, or what have you. Replaced is the kind of controversy-driven hype we too often see.

So it's true that more reporters are smart people who want to be journalists in, perhaps, the Romantic sense. But most are often constrained by their conglomerate owners who either don't care about a fair reflection of the issue, or find it econimcally advantageous not to.
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 11/19/2004 :  22:54:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message
I think that "the media" is not driven by a desire to report facts anymore (if it ever was, but I seem to recall a time when reality mattered). I see, in general terms, corporate owned media outlets that are driven by market share and advertising revenue.

And guess what? Tabloid style reporting sells WAY better than the boring old truth. Or you get a specific audience (like FOXnews has done) and just pander to them. Report at the appropriate slant to please your viewers.

Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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