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Friday, May 14, 2010

New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post all rejected op-ed/letter from 255 National Academy of Sciences members defending climate science integrity

New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post all rejected op-ed/letter from 255 National Academy of Sciences members defending climate science integrity

MSM largely ignored it, but unintentionally clever ploy by Science with polar bear artwork got the anti-science crowd to read it

by Joseph Romm, Climate Progress, May 13, 2010

Last week, I wrote about the remarkable letter in Science supporting the accuracy of climate science, signed by 255 National Academy of Sciences members, including 11 Nobel laureates.

The insufficiently-covered letter has been kept alive as a story for two reasons.  First, the editors at Science ran the letter with a "photoshopped" "collage" (see above).  Second, we learned that the authors first tried to get some of the newspapers that have been publishing dubious attacks on climate scientists to publish the piece as an op-ed, but were rejected.

Let’s start with the second.  I asked the lead author, Pacific Institute President Peter Gleick, if the bombshell about the rejections buried in the NYT Green blog story were true.  He wrote me back:

We sent it first as an op-ed (one at a time, in order) to the WSJ, then the NY Times, then the Post. Each rejected it. No reasons given (they don’t usually). We then took it to Science, rather than try other smaller circulation newspapers. They agreed, and as you know, ran it on May 7th. The media coverage has been substantial, though mostly electronic media. And in terms of “mainstream media” more attention was given OUTSIDE of the US than inside — so some of the major papers in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, but not here. But some good coverage here, too. I’ve attached a long, long list of media coverage (incomplete, but you’ll get the idea why I say "substantial").
Here is the full list.

It is no surprise that the WSJ turned them down — frankly, I wouldn’t have bothered with the WSJ at all given the extremist views of their editorial page.

But the New York Times has published a number of series of pieces repeating dubious attacks on climate science and climate scientists – including a couple of dreadful ones the front page – for which they have been roundly criticized:
So this would have been a simple way for the one-time "paper of record" to begin to restore balance to their coverage.

As for the WashPost, they have utterly abandoned their op-ed page to the anti-science crowd (see “The Washington Post goes tabloid, publishes second falsehood-filled op-ed by Sarah Palin in five months — on climate science and the hacked emails!” and “And the 2009 “Citizen Kane” award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to …“).  It’s also not a surprise I suppose that they turned down the scientists, but again, it would have been a very simple way to show that they were at least superficially interested in restoring balance.

I asked Gleick why “the mainstream media mostly ignored this letter once it was out” and in addition to his above comment, he added:
To be honest, I don’t understand why the media in the US refuses to address climate, or does so in such a shallow way, or cannot differentiate between the mainstream science and the incredibly vocal but small minority of climate change deniers.
I don’t want to waste a lot of time on the essentially irrelevant mistake Science made.  I’ve seen some pretty silly stuff written about it on the blogosphere — and not just from the anti-science crowd.  Gleick has a good HuffPost piece, “Remarkable Insight Into the Climate Denial Machine.”
In a remarkable bit of irony, the art chosen by editors (not by the authors of the letter) at Science to accompany the letter was a picture of a polar bear on an ice floe. To the embarrassment of the journal, this photo is “photoshopped” — combining polar bear, ice floes, clouds, and other elements into a perfectly lovely, albeit made-up piece of art. Oops. The journal, of course, when they realized their mistake, agreed to swap out the photo and post a sheepish correction.
But this incident has also provided a fantastic peek into the way the climate denial “machine” works — and I call it a machine, because it truly operates like one. The small but vocal part of the infosphere dominated by the climate deniers seized on this “fake” photo to try to paint the entire climate science community as fake.
Science itself took down the image, replaced it with the one below, and added this correction:
Due to an editorial error, the original image associated with this Letter was not a photograph but a collage. The image was selected by the editors, and it was a mistake to have used it. The original image has been replaced in the online HTML and PDF versions of the article with an unaltered photograph from National Geographic.

Much ado about not bloody much.

Indeed, in the spirit of what you can find on the blogosphere about this “kerfuffle” (Gleick’s word for it in his email to me), let me praise Science for its initial “mistake.”  The U.S. status quo media were never going to cover this letter very much because … well, because they are status quo.  And that meant the anti-science bloggers could ignore it.  And that meant their (dwindling) legions of readers and linkers weren’t  going to see the letter.  But now many of them have, and perhaps one or two, unconsciously, will be moved.

More seriously, it was silly of Science to have any image at all that might pigeonhole this important letter or detract from it even microscopically as happened here.  The letter ain’t about polar bears.  Next time, Science, how about this one, which comes from research published in your own pages (see Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds):

A Hockey Stick in Melting Ice


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