How the media mis-represents everyday science

Joel O’Bryan writes in WUWT Tips and Notes

The LA Times has the follwing lead story on it webpage:

“Climate change reflected in altered Missouri River flow, report says”
http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-missouri-river-20140817-story.html

Quoting from the LA Times, “Climate shifts may be causing the disparate changes in the Missouri River Basin, the USGS report says. The scientists noted that higher stream flow in the Dakotas had occurred even as water use increased. In addition, they said, lower stream flow in some areas could be related in part to groundwater pumping.”

Parker Norton, PhD Candidate, was the lead author of the report. His USGS dissertation report is quite large (32MB) but downloadable as a PDF at:
http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2014/5053/

Parker Norton makes the following statement in the report:

“This study did not examine forcing factors that may explain the observed streamflow trends, such as climate change, climate variability, land- and water-use changes, or groundwater pumping; however, possible causes are described in the context of the need for further research.” (Page 9, under Introduction, Purpose and Scope)

I find nowhere in Parker Norton’s report any mention of the term “climate shift” as claimed by the LA Times reporter.

The only instance of the term Climate Change is the above noted on in his intro. He does use the term “climate” a total of 8 times in the body of his report (not counting the references). A review of each of the context of that “climate” term usage finds no attribution of the water shed affects to Climate change and certainly not human-induced climate change.

Conclusion: The LA Times reporter confabulated a false narrative of climate change impact from a scientific report in which no such claim was made.

Climate Change media bias clearly at work on the public opinion. I give the LA Times reporter MAYA SRIKRISHNAN Four Pinocchios on this article — Pants on Fire.

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42 thoughts on “How the media mis-represents everyday science

  1. One of the true believers that left a comment on the L.A. Times article, called our planet “the shinning jewel of the solar system called the Milky Way.” That’s the level of intelligence we are up against folks. Total ignorance thanks to the media.

  2. I suspect if we analyzed every Main Stream Media (MSM) article that discusses “global warming/climate change” in some manner we would find a marked distortion between what the journalist says and what the scientist or science paper reports.

    Remember, the media is the message, not the facts or the truth.

  3. “the shinning jewel of the solar system called the Milky Way.”


    What did a Milky Way do to deserve a shinning? Darn tasty chocolate bar.
    Although it’s not as classy as a Galaxy.

    Is this trolling?

  4. Having encountered some journalism majors in the ten years I taught at the university level, I have come to appreciate the fact that journalists fabricate a lot of what they write.

  5. Maybe there was a mention of climate change in the university’s press release, or in an interview of the author (?).

  6. It’s important for the religious believers in Global Warming to keep singing the hymnals of doom. It’s a way for them to reach out to their fellow parishioners and communicate their faith in “the cause”. It’s a curious and sad thing to observe. In many cases, desperate people with all kinds of substance abuse problems and/or depression are easy pickings for the evangelicals of “the cause”.

    A person who sees the world through the eyes of their personal depression and doom will find a sense of comfort in the thought that the world is doomed also (by the power and glory of “the cause”. All hail “the cause” and may it come to power over the earth. Blessed be “the cause”)

    sorry, couldn’t resist this heretical moment for which I will surely burn in a deniers HELL.

  7. Frankly, I’d say that Saturn would be a better candidate for ‘shining jewel of the Solar System’ than earth. It’s MUCH prettier to look at.

  8. rogerknights says:
    August 18, 2014 at 6:35 am

    Maybe there was a mention of climate change in the university’s press release, or in an interview of the author (?).

    ===============

    I think there was a mention of ‘climate’ by one of the co-authors in an interview, but it hardly assigns blame to ‘Climate Change’ or ‘Climate Shifts’.
    “What is apparent is that the climate is changing and that it is being reflected in the stream flow conditions,” said Mark Anderson, director of the USGS Water Science Center in South Dakota and another of the report’s authors.

    Well, sure, the climate is changing, then again, isn’t it always?

  9. While the press may misrepresent science, it is not necessarily intentional. Quite often it is because they do not understand the science or the scientist has not communicated in simple terms. In one instance that I was involved with, the reporter grossly misrepresented what was stated in an interview. After a complaint to the newspaper, the editor refused to issue a correction to the story claiming that it was mostly correct in his opinion.

  10. “The only instance of the term Climate Change is the above noted on in his intro. He does use the term “climate” a total of 8 times in the body of his report (not counting the references). A review of each of the context of that “climate” term usage finds no attribution of the water shed affects to Climate change and certainly not human-induced climate change.”

    Maya found the word ‘climate’ and launched into “climate change (aka, poetic) license” from there. What do you expect from today’s reporters? For decades, postmodern English professors have taught them that truth is what serves the interests of the writer.

  11. “Conclusion: The LA Times reporter confabulated a false narrative of climate change impact from a scientific report in which no such claim was made.”

    This is par for the course with the MSM. What I find disconcerting is that NONE of the mainstream climate scientists who proclaim to be all about the “science” ever respond to this type of misrepresentation and try to correct it.

    By the way, if you’re like me and have no faith in the veracity or objectivity of our MSM, just remove them from your life. Delete links to their sites and apps that use their sites. Don’t purchase their “news” products (papers, magazines, etc.) or watch their shows on TV. And encourage your friends and family to do the same – eventually their sponsors will begin to notice. Look at CNN, for example. They are in freefall as only airports and some sports bars are tuned to their shows anymore.

  12. Has anyone got a comparison in size between the Milky Way and the “shinning jewel” in easily comprehensible terms, such as, for example, London buses?

  13. ‘I find nowhere in Parker Norton’s report any mention of the term “climate shift” as claimed by the LA Times reporter.’

    Obviously their PHD supervisor has baldly let them down when it comes to advice on does and does not advance your career in climate science. And here is clue its certainly not good science.
    Still they time yet to shoe-horn the ‘correct references’ into this work , so all is not lost yet.

  14. I ran across an excellent sentence in another (unrelated) article this AM:

    “This isn’t reporting, it’s servicing the prejudices of readers who’d rather not think that hard.”

  15. The problem is that the media companies globally are all quite aware (because the NGOs brag about what they spend on wining and dining them) of what the UNESCO vision is on climate change and how the books published and articles written and stories broadcast should all fit with the desired memes. They also fit with the view of K-12 education globally (known as Common Core or Next Generation Learning in the US and 21st Century Skills elsewhere) that is now to be primarily about using the classroom to create common shared understandings. Those shared understandings need not have anything to do with scientific reality. Their purpose and reason for existence is to drive a widespread perception in the need for transformative political, social, and economic change.

    http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/sculpting-the-inner-eyes-that-guide-what-real-eyes-perceive-from-daily-experiences/ is just full of cites to the specific language of what global education is to now mean everywhere and what it is designed to do.

    I am very glad this blog is devoted to proof and hard science. It is a huge mistake to continue to believe that is what is guiding K-12 classrooms anywhere anymore, public or private. If that crucial fact does not get broader recognition, hard science will only matter to the consequences of all these public policy shifts.

  16. Conclusion: The LA Times reporter confabulated a false narrative of climate change impact from a scientific report in which no such claim was made.

    The LA Times reporter also pulled this stunt:

    In the Dakotas, flooding is more common, leaving fields too muddy to plant or harvest crops.

    This dichotomy isn’t necessarily a surprise.

    “Climate change models predict that where it is wet, it will get wetter, and where it is dry, it will get drier,” said Matt Rice, a program director at American Rivers, a nonprofit conservation organization.

    Well, both North Dakota and Montana are places where it is DRY, and thus both should be getting DRIER according to Matt Rice. LA Times confabulates support for their false narrative from a statement that refutes that narrative.

    Of course, the LA Times reporter also claims that Montana farmers grow “malted barley”. Demonstrates the level of understanding these asshats have.

  17. I would just like to post an observation here. Last year, major flood in Colorado spilled massive amounts of water into Nebraska that was as dry as burnt toast. Before those floodwaters made it to the Missouri river, yeah, the people here in Nebraska started pumping water out of the Platte so much it made little difference downstream. (The flooding was averted.) Although not pleasant for those in Colorado, Hey, thanks for the water.

  18. Mark twain comes to mind again, his comment as to how the Mississippi River shortens itself by a few 100 feet very year.
    Or of course the benefit of science, how one can gain so much speculation from so few facts.

  19. >>”Quoting from the LA Times, “Climate shifts may be causing the disparate changes in the Missouri River Basin, the USGS report says.”<<

    Whenever I hear such an assertion on any subject, my crap-bias detector goes off.

    Let's try a slight rephrasing: ". . . Climate shifts may or may not be causing the disparate changes in the Missouri River Basin . . ."

    This is just as accurate a statement as what the LA Times wrote, but leads the reader to a rather different conclusion.

    Bias? What bias?

  20. Then there’s the stupidity of the caption writer…

    Of course when your entire knowledge of corn is that it typically either comes out of a can or in the form of frosted flakes, I wouldn’t expect you to be able to distinguish an ear of corn from an entire plant.

  21. The media mis-represents almost everything everyday. Our news media may be worse than the USSR’s in the 70s.

  22. Bobby Davis says:
    August 18, 2014 at 6:10 am

    One of the true believers that left a comment on the L.A. Times article, called our planet “the shinning jewel of the solar system called the Milky Way.” That’s the level of intelligence we are up against folks. Total ignorance thanks to the media.

    I think we are prone to assigning to much credit to “the media.” The members of the media are generally products of an education system that also creates their readers. In other words, the reporters are unlikely to be significantly brighter than their readers. Also, the confoundment of the solar system and the galaxy is, as stated, in a “comment.” So, we can’t necessarily attribute it to the editors or reporters ignorance so much as to their training to be “sensitive.” One of my children is just now discovering that high school seems to have short-changed her severely. Since the results of my attempts to alert her to this and to rectify it somewhat during their high school years were met with anger and accusations of cruelty and insensitivity, all I can do now is nod sympathetically – and smile. The good part is that the kid is now working hard to acquire things that are no longer offered in high school.

  23. I’d write a letter to the LA Times editor complaining about this except they banned free speech, I mean letters from climate skeptics….

  24. To be entirely fair in regards to reporters in general, incompetence probably leads bias by a fair margin. After those two there’s not much left to rely on.
    As someone once said, He’s never know a completely acculturate article on subjects he knows well

  25. to be fair – the USGS report was only one “expert” cited in the news article – and yes – she mis-representated of the report – altho i’m curious about the quote from the lead author – it doesn’t seem to be in the report – so did she communicate with him directly – and did he embellish on the report

    i wonder at the term “everyday science” in this post’s heading – the USGS report is hardly everyday science – in fact – the entire heading is a generalization – the LA Times article was an “example of misrepresenting an expert witness” – let’s let the alarmists be the sloppy ones – okay?

  26. JJ says:
    August 18, 2014 at 8:25 am
    Of course, the LA Times reporter also claims that Montana farmers grow “malted barley”. Demonstrates the level of understanding these asshats have.
    —————————————————————————–

    Single or double?

  27. JEyon wrote, “i wonder at the term “everyday science” in this post’s heading – the USGS report is hardly everyday science – in fact – the entire heading is a generalization – the LA Times article was an “example of misrepresenting an expert witness” – let’s let the alarmists be the sloppy ones”

    I would agree with you if the subject at hand were some hard physics concepts that is arcane to even an educated but non-expert reader. An example would be say the science behind CGR cloud nucleation and the subsequent effects on earth’s albedo and UWLWIR. A topic like that, though certainly critical in climate science circles, is not everyday science. There are countless examples that are not “everyday science.”

    However the ever shifting geology and hydrology of a major river with all its hundreds of small tributaries is quite real “everyday science” to the tens of thousands of stakeholders whose lives and livlihoods are controlled by the “everyday” happenings in the Missouri River watershed and the water it provides. Any of the thousands of ranchers and farmers, many whose families have lived on the land for generations, understand firsthand much about their local hydrology, such as where it floods, how much rain it takes to overun banks, or why the river in their area is frequently like an “angry tempermental wife” that you have to learn to live with for both her bounty and her fits. Every one of those stakeholders & land holders interact at some point with their local soil conservation offices and agriculture extension agents who do understand the everyday science of a major watershed.
    The farmers who pump aquifers are keenly aware of the long terms effects of surface subsidence, soil salinity changes, and many other technical quirks that are vital to their livlihood.
    By the same token, many sport recreation outfits have experienced river and fishing guides who understand their part of the watershed and its hydrology impacts on their business and their customers.

    And it is precisely because these many thousnads of stakeholders along the Missouri River water understand the everyday science of the river that they are some of the most skeptical toward the idea that “climate change” and see it as just another excuse by an over-reaching government to control their livlihoods.

    JMO

  28. I think one of the reasons for such nonsense is that nearly all the “science reporting” in the mainstream press is done by people who don’t know the difference between astronomy and astrology. They went to public schools and colleges, and got degrees in things like feminist film criticism.

    That’s not a completely random example. When PBS NewsHour needed to hire a “Reporter/Producer on Science and Climate Change,” they chose a pretty young girl who had a fresh degree in Film Studies, with an emphasis on Feminist Criticism. Her senior honors thesis at UNL was entitled, “Unzipping Gender: Gender Stereotypes, Identity, and Power.” I know that because googled her after she wrote, in 2012, that 90% of Greenland’s ice mass had thawed that summer.

  29. What you have displayed here is an example of “churnalism” (do a Google/Bing search) which is what has replaced actual journalism these days …

  30. The real problem with the Missouri is the Corps who maintain the river forgot why all those dams were built (to stop flooding) and started worrying about the Plover. So when they tried to duplicate the”natural flow” of course they ended up with flooding and washing away the plover nest. The trouble with Greenies is you can’t fix stupid.

  31. So why isn’t the author, his supervisor and the university screaming about being misrepresented?

    Oh I see…

    “possible causes are described in the context of the need for further research”

    They didn’t even have to make their own grant magnet. The press did it for them.

  32. In Texas there’s a saying, “never let the facts get in the way of a good story“. It seems the LA Times practices this.

  33. john robertson says: August 18, 2014 at 8:47 am “Mark Twain comes to mind again, his comment as to how the Mississippi River shortens itself by a few 100 feet every year.
    Or of course the benefit of science, how one can gain so much speculation from so few facts.

    Thank you John, for a most illuminating reference to a similar process to the mechanics of “climate science” For those not already aware, the link is:

    http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/mtwain/bl-mtwain-lifemississippi-17.htm

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