13 March 2007

Global warming gets Media hot under the collar

Any journalist worth their salt wants to be provocative. It goes with the teritory. That's why they will happily pounce on flimsy stories that don't really stack up. The journalists will try to justify their behaviour on the grounds of public interest, the same excuse they use when publishing pictures of princes out on the razzle with their girlfriends.

This is the only possible justification for the recent Channnel 4 programme on climate change, The Great Global Warming Swindle. The TV programme, it seems, presented the sceptics' view that climate change has nothing to do with people. Or rather, they aren't the cause of it.

For once, the rest of the media have not allowed their colleagues to get away with murdering science. They have come out flaming. One such response comes from medialens in an article Pure Propaganda - The Great Global Warming Swindle.

As usual, the people who have always taken a contrarian view, often because that is how they earn a living, welcomed the programme. But medialens brings together a pretty devastating overview of the media coverage of the programme.

In particular, they quote The Independent, which talked to one of the experts who appeared in the programme, Professor Carl Wunsch. It is worth quoting Wunsch at length:

"I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled."
The moral of the story is that scientists should be careful, very careful, when they talk to reporters. In particular, don't talk to people if you are not familiar with their work.

When advising scientists on dealing with the media, I tell them never to talk to certain tabloids, those that have never shown the slightest interest in writing sensible science stories. It seems that Channel 4 now has to join that list of media that you don't touch with a bargepole.

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