Weather News Has Its Politics, Too; Personal Beliefs Creep into Reports on Global Warming

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Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The daily TV weather forecast may not be neutral territory.

Personal beliefs influence what a television weathercaster reports about "politically charged environmental issues such as global warming," according to a study released April 11 by the University of Texas at Austin.

"Research showed that personal perspectives not years of experience, market size, newscast position, science degrees and seals of approval from accrediting organizations shape weathercasters' views about climate change," the study stated.

Journalism professor Kris Wilson, a former TV weather forecaster, polled 217 TV weathercasters and concluded that many tiptoe around global warming and that some are forbidden to bring it up on the air.

"I had one weathercaster tell me his bosses thought it was a 'Clinton propaganda tool,' " Mr. Wilson said yesterday. "On the other hand, there can be pressure from the businesspeople who don't want the weather forecast mixed up in some wacky environmentalist thing."

His study is "not an indictment of weathercasters."

"But you can't filter the politics or the personal perspectives out of a subject like climate change. I'm concerned the public is not getting available facts," Mr. Wilson said.

The study challenges the "assumption that those trained in science are apolitical," he continued, adding that journalistic objectivity could be compromised.

"There's no gag order here on global warming," said Ray Ban, executive vice president of the Weather Channel. "There's a lot of debate in the community about it and if climate change is caused by natural or human influences. We don't know all the answers yet."

Beginning in July, however, the Weather Channel will add a "climate expert" to its roster of specialized weathercasters who advise on severe, winter or tropical weather patterns.

"We're trying to make climate issues on par with weather issues and tell the public what we know, what we don't know and the discussions at hand," Mr. …