A New York Times environmental reporter told Columbia University journalism students that presenting balance in an article about global warming is tantamount to perpetuating a lie.
“It is a lie to say that global warming poses no danger,” New York Times reporter Justin Gillis told students after a screening of the movie “Merchants of Doubt,” reports The Federalist.
“Journalists care about the truth—that’s my only care in life, to find the truth,” Gillis said. “To act as if the evidence is half and half is to tell a lie. I refuse to perpetuate that lie.”
“This is much like the abortion wars: what term you use signals what side you are on,” Gillis said, adding that it’s necessary for reporters to maintain a facade of impartiality.
Gillis told students he liked to use the word “deniers” for “people who oppose climate science,” and that these people should never be called “skeptics.”
Gillis recently made headlines for a report on funding Harvard-Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon got from fossil fuel interests. Gillis wrote that Soon did not disclose that the funding came from an energy company that used coal, arguing the failure to disclose constituted a conflict of interest.
The New York Times report sparked a congressional investigation into the finances of scientists who have challenged the Obama administration’s views on global warming. Lawmakers also inquired after industry groups and free market think tanks about their funding of science. Gillis’ reporting also included quotes from Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes, the co-author of the book that became the documentary “Merchants of Doubt.”
The documentary by “Food Inc.” director Robert Kenner attempts to paint global warming skeptics as old Cold Warriors who are paranoid that climate issues are another proxy for socialism. The film also attempts to argue that the fossil fuel industry has taken a page out of the tobacco industry playbook by funding slick PR-types and shady scientists to cast doubt on global warming.
Interestingly enough, Gillis’ New York Times report, which featured Oreskes, came out just three weeks before “Merchants of Doubt” was released. Gillis also quoted former Greenpeace activist Kert Davies — who has been giving information out to the press about Soon since 2009.
After the NY Times story came out, Davies wrote in his blog that “we have an idea for coming clean, a remedy…the illustrious Smithsonian Institution should sponsor free screenings nationwide of the upcoming theatrical film Merchants of Doubt, pay for school kids everywhere to go see it.”
“Maybe half a million dollars worth of screenings,” added Davies, who now heads up the Climate Investigations Center.
In the days that followed Gillis’s report, other news outlets began poking holes in accusations that Soon violated conflict of interest standards. Bloggers even pointed out that other scientists who similarly got money from institutions with ties to fossil fuels companies that were not disclosed.
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