Bias in Media Coverage: An Overwhelming Majority of the News Media Have Adopted the Perspective That Global Farming Is Man-Made. Such a Major Issue Deserves More Unbiased, Objective Reporting

By Fisher, John | The New American, August 4, 2008 | Go to article overview

Bias in Media Coverage: An Overwhelming Majority of the News Media Have Adopted the Perspective That Global Farming Is Man-Made. Such a Major Issue Deserves More Unbiased, Objective Reporting


Fisher, John, The New American


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In June 2000 global-warming prophesier Ross Gelbspan lamented, "Over the last seven years, the fossil-fuel lobby has mounted an extremely effective campaign of disinformation to persuade public and policymakers that the issue atmospheric warming is still stuck in the limbo of scientific uncertainty. That campaign for the longest time targeted the science. It then misrepresented the economics. And most recently it attacked the diplomatic foundations of the climate convention. And it has been extraordinarily successful in creating a relentless drumbeat of doubt in the public mind."

A lot has changed since then. In the past seven years, forecasters of human-caused catastrophic global warming have won over the press and a majority of the public to what is now described as the "consensus view." Global-warming skeptics not only are not listened to: they are considered lunatics and are ridiculed. Reporters have adopted a view that, like the dangers of smoking, global warming is a reality caused by human consumption and something must be done. Alternative viewpoints are no longer sought nor listened to. The media compare global-warming "deniers" to holocaust deniers and deride them in the mainstream press.

Media March to the Same Drum

In August 2007, Newsweek ran a cover story by Sharon Begley that was meant to debunk the myth of an alternative view-point once and for all, so that society can get on to finding solutions to man-made climate change. Instead, bloggers responded with stories "debunking the debunkers." The next week Newsweek ran a rebuttal claiming that "self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism" and "'viewing the world as "good guys vs. bad guys' can lead to a vast oversimplification of a messy story." In the rebuttal Newsweek author Robert Samuelson admitted that Newsweek had gotten its facts wrong on a number of counts and had proposed a solution that was simplistic at best.

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Newsweek is not alone in its one-sided coverage of global warming. A study of mine published in the 2007 Competition Forum shows the number of articles in the 2006 New York Times and Toronto Globe and Mail and compares these with New York Times coverage from 2000. An overwhelming majority of the articles from the New York Times (94 percent) and the Globe and Mail (96 percent) were identified as accepting catastrophic global warming as a reality. No articles were found to be against and only a small proportion, often industry-based, were neutral in their reporting of global warming. In 2006, the New York Times published 146 articles about global warming, almost four times greater than in 2000 when it published 37. In 2000, 16 articles supported global warming, six were against, and 15 reported both positions. The number of articles in the Globe and Mail during 2006 was 533, almost four times greater than in the New York Times during the same year. A study done by the Business & Media Institute (BMI) confirmed these findings. Of 205 network news stories analyzed about "global warming" or "climate change" between July 1, 2007 and December 31, 2007, a "meager" 20 percent even mentioned alternative opinions to the so-called "consensus" position.

Catastrophic global-warming forecasters overwhelmingly outnumbered those with alternative viewpoints. What was obviously missing from the network reports was dissenting voices. For every skeptic there were 13 advocates for global warming. On all three networks, 80 percent of the stories (167 out of 205) didn't provide alternative viewpoints to human-caused global warming. CBS did the worst job with 97 percent of its stories (34 out of 35) reporting only the global-warming side. NBC excluded dissenting voices in 85 (76 out of 89) of its stories. Although more balanced, 64 percent (34 out of 53) of ABC stories didn't include other views.

Very few scientists, either pro or con, were interviewed. …

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