JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The Skeptics Handbook II

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ClimateGate II: Handy Guide to spot whitewash journalism – The top 10 excuses for scientists behaving badly

Sorting real journalists from sock puppets is not too tricky: real investigators tell you what the story is about; PR writers tell you what to think.

Do they “discuss” ClimateGate emails … without quoting the emails?

Who digs for details, and who hides the evidence?

The PR writers for Big-Government were quick to come up with excuses for ClimateGate II. Which is all very well, but it’s blindingly obvious where their own personal prejudices lie if they won’t print the emails that they are supposedly discussing. It’s not so much cherry-picking, but cherry-denial. “Don’t mention the radioactive cherries, but lets discuss how cherry farmers have been victimized, talk about the history of cherry tree farming, and hear their excuses and assertions that the cherries are an essential part of our diets. Don’t mention the Geiger counter. OK?”

The top 10 excuses for PR writers who pose as “journalists” to ignore ClimateGate emails

This is standard issue damage control for ClimateGate — protect the cheats and liars, attack the whistleblower, and use excuses and padding-fillers to cover a story without actually giving the public any information on the [...]

The Age does award winning PR — oops was that meant to be science?

RE: “Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions” by Michael Bachelard, The Sunday Age

———————————– For free, and just because I’m a nice person, I’m going to help Michael Bachelard with his science articles.

He’s a Walkley Award winner writing for the two largest “broadsheet” circulation papers in Australia. He knows indigenous issues, politics and industrial relations, so “climate science” was the … er, obvious next step, right?

The Age (and by default, it’s sister The Sydney Morning Herald) decided to pretend to investigate the most burning climate questions the public could offer. But their investigations apparently amounted to phoning up government agents and fans of the policy, and asking them what to write.

 

It’s titled: Sceptic: one inclined to doubt accepted opinions, but it could have been titled Journalist: one inclined to parrot groupthink

Poor Bachelard is out of his depth in the science trying to answer Stephen Harper and Harry Hostan’s questions. For an investigative journalist he had odd ideas about how to get answers, almost never contacting the people or groups he wrote about directly. Who knows, maybe the servers at Fairfax don’t allow emails out to non-lefties at the moment, because he doesn’t seem to [...]

A journalist who confuses journalism with propaganda

Great news: This commentary appears in The Weekend Australian today (in a slightly different edited version). Below was what I submitted, before the edits, with the links intact. Comments are open at The Australian. I’ll be posting less often over the Southern Summer, possibly quite irregularly, so if you want to get an email from me and find out when the more important posts go up, please add your email to my list (top right, see “register”).

In the print edition the headline is “Journalists who think Newspapers should lead the country”*

David McKnight’s criticism of The Australian (Sceptical writers skipped inconvenient truths) makes a good case study of the intellectual collapse of Australian universities.

Here’s a UNSW “Senior Research Fellow” in journalism who contradicts himself, fails by his own reasoning, does little research, breaks at least three laws of logic, and rests his entire argument on an assumption that he provides no evidence for. Most disturbingly — like a crack through the façade of Western intellectual vigour — he actually asserts that the role of a national newspaper is to “give leadership”. Bask for a moment in the inanity of this declaration that newspapers “are our leaders”. Last [...]

How the BBC became a propaganda arm of the UK government (and WWF)

Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) and Tony Newbery (Harmless Sky) have put in a submission to the review of the BBC’s impartiality on science. It’s the anatomy of how government and activist groups take over an arm of a public broadcaster. There is no sneaking in the back door here.

The main problem facing government and policymakers was convincing the public that concern about anthropogenic global warming was well founded, and not just another scare story that would soon be forgotten. The Climate Change Communications Working Group (DEFRA, EST, UKCIP, Env. Agency, DTI, Carbon Trust) was set up, and in February 2005 received a Short List of Recommendations from Futerra, an environmental PR consultancy, on the means of conveying the required message to the media and the public . In August 2006, the IPPR produced a thirty-page report entitled Warm Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better? which developed Futerra’s recommendations. This concluded that:

Many of the existing approaches to climate change communications clearly seem unproductive. And it is not enough simply to produce yet more messages, based on rational argument and top-down persuasion, aimed at convincing people of the reality of [...]

Soul searching enviro-journalists admit they look duped and should have talked to sceptics

There is much introspection going on among environmental journalists. Last week, in a remarkably candid piece, Margot O’Neill of the ABC revealed for the first time what the flummoxed and frustrated would-be journalists are discussing behind the scenes.

The admissions are extraordinary. Despite the fact that hardly any of the journalists wrote about Climategate, for many the emails from East Anglia were not just important, but a defining moment (though not, apparently, because it dented their faith in the global warming dogma). Instead, it was the effect Climategate had on editors and others in the office: people who had previously thought climate science was scientific, and environmental journalists were journalists. Suddenly, others realized they had been cheated of the real news, sideswiped by a development none of the supposedly “investigative” reporters saw coming.

Now for the first time, we find out that the formerly respected writers got looks of betrayal.

Probably the most important reaction to the UEA hacking for journalists was in their own newsrooms, among their own editors who are the gatekeepers controlling if your work appears and how prominently. While some UK surveys show no dramatic loss of credibility for climate scientists with the public, here’s how [...]

What the heck are science journalists for?

From The Skeptics Handbook II

Last week a science journalist at The Guardian wrote the best summary I have ever seen of the state of the profession known as “science communication”. Only, he thought it was a spoof. Well, it is — and it’s satirically funny at the same time as being an unwittingly cutting commentary. (We laugh at the formulaic approach because we know it’s so true, and then we bang our heads on the wall…).

Science journalists who churn out mindless ritual productions are effectively being PR and marketing writers. Dangerously, though, they are dressed as “investigative” journalists. The public assumes they are checking that their stories don’t break laws of logic and reason, that they are supported by evidence, and that they are providing the whole story. Their PR is the most powerful advertising there is, it’s not just free, it’s a third party endorsement.

Ironically, the same journalists probably don’t realize how important they are. They think they’re there for a fluffy feelgood reasons: to help promote science, raise public awareness, and attract school leavers into careers in science. They don’t realize that their most important role is to protect science itself and be guardians [...]