Wednesday, November 04, 2009

New York Times drops the ball reporting on Gore

The New York Times printed this absolute train wreck about Al Gore. Apparently some commentators are claiming Gore is arguing for action on climate change in order to make himself rich. So the NY Times printed a pointless story about those claims. It is ridiculous on a number of levels.

Level one: This is news because some people say it is news.

Critics, mostly on the political right and among global warming skeptics, say Mr. Gore is poised to become the world’s first “carbon billionaire,” profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in. Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, asserted at a hearing this year that Mr. Gore stood to benefit personally from the energy and climate policies he was urging Congress to adopt.

The claimants are politically motivated. They are also quite likely to be wrong. The story even goes on to suggest that possibility. If they are wrong, and the argument is politically motivated, why give the story any attention at all? It simply provides a mouthpiece.

Level two: Complete lack of context

Mr. Gore is not a lobbyist, and he has never asked Congress or the administration for an earmark or policy decision that would directly benefit one of his investments. But he has been a tireless advocate for policies that would move the country away from the use of coal and oil, and he has begun a $300 million campaign to end the use of fossil fuels in electricity production in 10 years.

Interesting, you say. Unless, of course, you contrasted the single investment data point in this article (Gore) with data on other investors in the energy sector. The article does not make one mention of the fact that the CEOs and investors in the fossil fuel industry do actively lobby in Washington, do ask Congress for earmarks and policy, and do financially benefit from those activities.

Level three: Politics anyone?

But Marc Morano, a climate change skeptic who until recently was a top aide to Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, said that what he saw as Mr. Gore’s alarmism and occasional exaggerations distorted the debate and also served his personal financial interests.

Shouldn't the second clause in that sentence make the editors think that Morano might not be worth quoting on this subject? This is a classic case of the knee-jerk reaction of quoting "the other side", even though the other side is not the least bit objective. In this case, it adds nothing, other than a chance to further polarize the readers.

Listen, I'm not defending Gore. I'm criticizing the Times for an abominable editorial decision.
It's perfectly legitimate to report on Gore's growing wealth from his investing activities. That's not this story. This is reporting on a made-up controversy. And even though the story debunks many of the claims about Gore being "in it for the gold" as MT would say, the harm is done by shining a light on it.

There's no reason to run articles like this. Just because someone makes a stupid claim does not mean you have to report about it.

1 comment:

Tyler said...

Has the media accepted climate change as real yet? Or are they still supposed to be on the fence? In the latter case, it's probably why they included Marc Morano's opinion.