Strong headline, I know. But the headline is rooted in actions (and lack thereof). Readers may recall the smear job done by Guardian reporter Suzanne Goldenberg to Tom Harris at Carleton University in Ottawa which I covered in detail here: Fake moral outrage translated to smear: media upset that students can choose to take an elective course on climate change at Carleton.
Readers may also recall that in that story there’s a recorded transcript of the interview with Harris by Goldenberg, and it seems nothing substantive that Mr. Harris had to say made it in to Goldenberg’s story.
Before I published my investigation, Mr. Harris wrote a letter to the editor to the Guardian to set the record straight. It has been 10 days now and they still have not published it. Harris sent me a copy of the letter yesterday and I too sent a letter off to email@example.com and asked if they were going to publish it. According to my mail server logs, they received it, and it is now late in the day in London, so one can reasonably assume the answer was no. Since the Guardian does not apparently care about offering balanced reporting, (there’s no evidence it has been printed via Guardian’s own search) I’m presenting the letter from Mr. Harris here.
Feel free to upload my letter to The Guardian (below) to your superb site (minus my home address at the end, please), as you were suggesting. I did get an auto-response from “Letters editor, the Guardian” so there is no question that they received it. But they never published it.
Spring has sprung in Ottawa. Hope it is nice in CA too!
From: Tom Harris
Sent: February 29, 2012 1:19 AM
Subject: Re – “Heartland associate taught ‘biased’ climate course at Ottawa university”, Feb 28, 2012
I am commenting about the article found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/28/heartland-associate-climate-scepticism-ottawa-university. I understand you may wish to shorten my letter somewhat.
To the editor,
As primary target of Guardian Environment Correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg’s attack piece “”Heartland associate taught ‘biased’ climate course at Ottawa university” (Feb 28), I am very disappointed with this, my first interaction with your publication.
Contrary to the headline of the article, when I last taught at Carleton University, ending in April 2011, I was in not a “Heartland associate”. As was made clear to Goldenberg in our communications, I did not become an unpaid policy advisor with Heartland until only a few months ago.
Contrary to Goldenberg’s assertion that “Heartland’s core mission is to discredit climate change”, Heartland is committed to encouraging a full, open and honest dialog about the issue, and I explained to Goldenberg that they even hosted a friendly public debate between a “skeptic” and an “alarmist” at their last climate conference in Washington DC seven months ago.
Contrary to Goldenberg’s statement that the review of the Earth Sciences course was “an expert audit”, I explained to her that it was conducted by biologists who did not even bother to communicate with me about their opinions of the course before going public. This is especially odd considering the lead author is a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton.
Contrary to assertions in the subject piece, the course is well supported by peer reviewed literature and was no way extreme, merely concluding that we are a long way from understanding climate science well enough to be able to make definitive forecasts about the future but that we must help vulnerable peoples adapt to inevitable climate change.
If Goldenberg really believes that statements such as “The only constant about climate is change”, “carbon dioxide is plant food” or “the Amazon jungle is a relatively new formation, in geological terms” are even slightly controversial, then I suggest she take Professor Patterson’s course in 2013. It can be taken via the Web at a modest fee.
Executive Director, International Climate Science Coalition
Ottawa, Ontario K2A 4E2
When one reads the Guardian’s editorial code:
The first paragraph reads:
“A newspaper’s primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted.”
Our most important currency is trust. This is as true today as when CP Scott marked the centenary of the founding of the Guardian with his famous essay on journalism in 1921.
And upon further reading we find:
3. Appendices, section 3.2
Opportunity to reply
A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.
When the Guardian reporter doesn’t include significant points raised in an interview, then sets out to essentially create her own opinion about the story, and the editorial staff deny the right of reply in contradiction with their own policy, one can reasonably assume that The Guardian has blown its “currency of trust” on cheap thrills and is now bankrupt.
In the past, my policy has been to provide all media outlets and reporters with quotes and materials when they asked for it, for example when Fakegate broke, Suzanne Goldenberg asked for my reaction and I immediately supplied it. However, like many other reporters, she didn’t check the veracity of the documents first, and didn’t wait for my input that she requested, running the story irresponsibly to be “first” to smear Heartland (and me) thanks to the illegal act of Dr. Peter Gleick.
It seems clear to me that Goldenberg is biased, for example read how much she lauds Dr. Michael Mann here, but gives no ink to Harris in his long interview. She is also listed as producer of this laudatory video where we are treated to dozens of pictures of I ♥ Climate Scientists:
The end credits of this Guardian sponsored video read:
And yet the Guardian can’t be bothered to print a letter to the editor from Tom Harris defending himself. The bias displayed is gobsmacking.
As a result of this systemic journalistic malpractice, and since it is evident through my own experiences as well as watching the experiences of others that the Guardian has no interest in allowing “A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.” nor even waiting for accurate information in the first place, I am going to institute a new policy in regards to my interaction with the Guardian.
New policy: whenever the Guardian asks for input, my reply shall be:
Previous interactions with The Guardian experienced by myself, and by others that I have been able to witness have demonstrated that the The Guardian has no interest in reporting the skeptic side of the climate change issue fairly, but instead breaks its own policy and journalistic standards in an effort to provide what appears to be deadline oriented and opinionated reporting. Therefore, since I have no expectation that anything I say will be used fairly nor accurately, I decline comment, because to comment is an exercise in futility, and will reserve my comments for legitimate news organizations.
UPDATE: In retrospect, while this policy may be warranted by the irresponsible behavior displayed by the Guardian, it probably isn’t the best solution. So, I’ve decided to take a different tack.
Instead my policy will be:
To always ask for all questions to be submitted to me in written form. I already do that in most instances due to my hearing problem and difficulty with telephone communications. When I reply with my comments in written form, I demand that they be used as is without editing.
Then at the same time I send comments to the media outlet, I shall post the record of questions and comments made here as a new story, even if the media outlet has not gone to press yet. This will ensure that my comments are not distorted, and that there is a record of the media interaction.
I urge others to follow my lead. Record and post your media interactions. Force the issue of accountability and fairness.
There’s also the UK press complaints commission, which may provide some modicum of relief, but I have my doubts.