Media Matters ignores journalistic responsibility (yet again)
When it comes to ironic hyperbole, Media Matters tops the competition. In a dramatic diatribe of sorts, the self-described “progressive research and information center” published a blog post entitled, “FOXLEAKS: Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science.” Media Matters’ Ben Dimiero writes,
In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the “veracity of climate change data” and ordering the network’s journalists to “refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question.”
As “reported” by Media Matters, the memo was sent by managing editor Bill Sammon. Interestingly, Dimiero ignores a key phrase in the original message. Here is the untainted text of Sammon’s e-mail (which I will give Dimiero credit for including later on in his hit piece):
…we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.
It seems as though Dimiero purposefully chose to ignore Sammon’s note about journalistic responsibility. Whether or not you believe in the power of manmade global warming, we should all be in agreement that journalists have a responsibility to report the full scope of societal issues of importance. There are enough individuals casting doubt on human-induced global warming to compel any objective network (or, more appropriately: any network that claims to tout objectivity) to balance coverage on this important issue.
Sammon was avoiding journalistic leading, as he was requiring his staff to balance the notion that the earth has definitively warmed or cooled with valid concern from the opposing side. There’s nothing wrong with journalists “casting doubt” on an issue when there are a plethora of scientists — and citizens, for that matter — doing the same.
If there is any inkling of uncertainty, who better to seek ultimate truth than the media? If anything, I give Sammon credit for attempting to differentiate Fox from networks that have failed to even consider the possibility of natural warming and cooling patterns. These same networks have failed the public by refusing to showcase opposing views.
To put Sammon’s e-mail into perspective, one must also remember the Climategate scandal and the related questions surrounding global warming data. While Media Matters dismisses critics’ concerns, coverage of the mass anger (regardless of whether the scandal itself was viable) was warranted.
This issue certainly deserves more scrutiny. In Europe, the tide in belief that global warming is manmade has already turned. In Feb. 2010, the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believe that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade.” This proportion was down from 41 percent in a similar poll conducted in Nov. 2009.
As I wrote back in March,
In the 1970s, some climatologists actually proposed purposely melting portions of the ice caps in an effort to curb the effects of global cooling (others thought the effects of such an experiment would be too dangerous). Today, global warming enthusiasts claim that these same ice caps are melting on their own, an odd contradiction considering the warnings that were uttered just decades ago.
I am not trying to convince anyone that global warming (now deemed “climate change” to account for record cold spells in various parts of the nation) isn’t happening. Rather, I’m attempting to conclude that the jury is still out and that the media have a responsibility to report on all sides of the debate.
Media Matters is essentially outraged over an editor’s insistence that Fox News’ staff members fulfill their basic journalistic duties. If Dimiero and his coworkers truly believe that media does, indeed, “matter for America,” they’d be calling for a full-fledged look at climate change. Instead, they’re pedaling their typical rhetoric.
Billy Hallowell is a journalist and commentator who focuses on faith, media and society. Through journalism, media, public speaking appearances and the blogosphere, Hallowell has worked for more than a decade to inspire and motivate his generation. He has been published and featured in political and cultural books, textbooks, articles and Web sites that focus on the youth of America and its role in the future of our world.