So What Happened to the Journalism?

 John Ridgway

“Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.”

Edward R. Murrow

Back in 2013 the UK’s Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee could be found holding an enquiry into the communication of climate science. Now, I admit I’m a little late in bringing this to your attention, but topicality is not my purpose here. On the contrary, what interests me more is how the British press reported upon the enquiry at the time. In particular, my interest was piqued by the following observation made in a leading broadsheet:1

“ MPs on the committee are trying to get to the bottom of why the public is still confused about climate science when the core science has been pretty clear for years.”

I suggest that the apparent paradox that causes the politicians and journalists to wring their hands in agonised bemusement has a starkly simple solution; they just have to entertain the possibility that they could be wrong. But, since such an idea is unconscionable to those who were placed on this earth to enlighten the confused, I’m not anticipating a mass epiphany any time soon. Cocooned in their own certainty, such people are unlikely to suspect that their lack of confusion betrays an unhealthy hubris. For example, a journalist who boasts “strong story verification skills” in his professional profile will not demur when it comes to offering advice. Far from it, as the article proceeds, we find the gentleman concerned more than eager to use his clarity of vision to show how the media could better “communicate the science”. Ironically, first on his list of commandments is: “Don’t confer scientific expertise on people who do not deserve it.”

I presume that the person who wrote this edict didn’t have himself in mind for disqualification, otherwise his audience would have had little motivation for reading any further. But is such an exemption really justified? Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, the newspaper magnate who founded the UK’s Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, once defined journalism as “a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand”. So just what are the credentials that underpin the wall-to-wall sermons that science journalists issue so freely?

Trust Me, I Own a Laptop

To be precise, I have a laptop and a science degree that covers a subject I didn’t pursue as a career. Does this mean I am qualified to arbitrate upon climate science? Of course not! But it does mean I am every bit as qualified as the average science journalist, since it is rare indeed to find one who writes about climate science after having first qualified in it. So it strikes me as breathtaking hypocrisy that such individuals should be so quick to denigrate anyone who has the audacity to comment upon climate science whilst not being a climatologist or a member of the IPCC.2 Poor old Nigel Lawson, Baron of Blaby, seems to be a particular favourite for such sceptic baiting. For example, I’ve just finished reading an online newspaper article3 berating the BBC for giving Baron Lawson airtime. The point is, apparently, that he should not be treated as “an authority on matters that he has no experience, expertise or insight on”. So was this admonishment written by such an authority? No. It was written by a professional neuroscientist who fancies himself as a stand-up comedian. I do not deny this person the right to call-out Nigel Lawson on his lack of qualifications, but clearly he can’t do so whilst preaching that the science on this matter is settled, there is no meaningful debate to be had, and the evidence is there for all to see should they choose to go and look for it”. Regrettably, this sort of blindness to one’s own limitations is all too common amongst those who have no difficulty seeing the limitations of others.

Actually, by giving a voice to the likes of Nigel Lawson, the BBC were attempting to strike a balance, but if we return to our mentor’s advice on how to better “communicate the science”, we see that by doing so they were falling foul of commandment number two: “Avoid false balance.”

Remember the Ninety-Seven

False balance, we are told by the journalists, is a failure to take into account that 97% of peer-reviewed publications “support the mainstream position” – whatever that means. Consequently, allocating anything more than 3% copy to the fringe view would actually be a false balance.

It seems extraordinary to me that journalists who pride themselves in exposing the truth behind the headlines can be so blasé when it comes to accepting this infamous statistic. For example, it doesn’t seem to bother them that its provenance is a single, somewhat questionable analysis of published climate papers conducted by John Cook et al. (2013).4

In fact, what the Cook et al. study seemed to be claiming was that 97% of those published papers that had been examined, and had expressed an opinion, endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gasses were the main cause of the current warming. But looking into this claim more thoroughly, one discovers that nowhere near that percentage of papers made an explicit, quantified assertion to that effect. The vast majority were labelled either, ‘explicit, unquantified endorsement’ or simply, ‘implicit endorsement’. Strictly speaking, only 1.6% of the papers that had expressed an opinion were sufficiently explicit in making a quantified claim.5

As it happens, it is actually quite difficult to discern the significance of the 97% statistic, because the Cook et al. paper is infuriatingly inconsistent in stating its central proposition. The best that can be said, I suspect, is that 97% of the papers were at least consistent with the view that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is making a nontrivial contribution to the recent rise in temperatures. As such, this is quite an unremarkable result. Certainly, there is nothing in the Cook et al. analysis to suggest that 97% of climate scientists agree that AGW will be catastrophic, although this is often how the journalists portray the consensus.

Now, it didn’t take me that long to discover these inconvenient details. All it needed was a bit of, dare I say, journalistic curiosity. So what was a journalist who prides himself on his “strong story verification skills” doing to earn his money? Nothing much, I might say. Instead, he seems satisfied to have aligned himself with the multitude of science journalists who likewise think that their investigative responsibilities are fulfilled simply by noting and repeating the 97% statistic ad nausea. Besides which, if the science journalists understood the relative importance of evidence and scientific consensus, the 97% statistic would not form the centre of their argument.

It is beyond the power of polite language to express what I think of such journalistic sloppiness, so before I choke on my righteous indignation, let us move on to commandment number three: “Make clear where scientific uncertainty lies and where it does not.”

Don’t Talk to Me About Uncertainty

One’s view of climate science uncertainty is bound to be central to one’s overall position. If you are a CAGW protagonist, then you will argue that sceptics are exaggerating the uncertainties and using them as an excuse for inaction. If you are a sceptic, it is likely that you are concerned that the uncertainties are misunderstood or, worse still, they are being deliberately downplayed. I am in the latter group, and I am happy to hear what anyone has to say on the issue because I do believe it to be pivotal. However, I am heartily sick of being lectured to by journalists who, through their prose, demonstrate an egregiously poor understanding of the very concept of uncertainty. They will confidently proclaim that the science behind the CAGW position is beyond debate, and all that is left to discuss are uncertainties relating to the scale and timing of impact, but what they cannot do, however, is convince me that they have even a basic understanding of the taxonomy, philosophy or mathematics of uncertainty. If they lack such a basic understanding, I fail to see how they can confidently hold forth upon any aspect of uncertainty analysis.

I found a particularly annoying example of this problem the other day, in an article bemoaning that communication of uncertainty is hindering climate change action. The author begins: “For fans of probability, confidence intervals and margins of error, climate change is a dream come true.” Having dazzled his readers with such a facile insight into the calculation of uncertainty, the author goes on to warn:

“Spreading doubt, playing down the scientific consensus, and focusing obsessively on uncertainties has been the central strategy of climate sceptics, following the helpful example of the tobacco industry before them. Clearly, there is much that could be done to improve the communication of uncertainty.”

Yes, there is much that can be done to help, but not by someone whose degree turns out to be in psychology. If there is a scientific discipline whose practitioners’ malpractice has done more to demonstrate the harm that can be done through the abuse of statistics and the failure to grasp the basics of uncertainty analysis, then I have yet to hear of it. So, instead of admonishing me for my ‘obsession’ with uncertainties, perhaps this author might instead take some time out to explain the hazards of relying upon a standardized p-value whilst paying insufficient regard to the a priori likelihood of a hypothesis. Maybe then he might begin to explain why a ‘Reproducibility Project’, undertaken by the journal Science, found that only 39% of the results of experimental and correlation studies published in three prominent psychology journals could be replicated.6 The remaining 61%, despite the average psychologist’s understanding of how uncertainty should be measured, turned out to be false positive results published as fact.7

It may also be of interest to you to learn that our psychologist friend is a prominent member of Climate Outreach, an organization that aims at “communicating about climate change more effectively”. As such, they refer to themselves as “Europe’s leading climate change communicators”. I have looked on their website to find out more about their staff. Regrettably, I found no one who I could trust to enlighten me on the potential for applying Dempster-Shafer Theory to the analysis of climate model uncertainty, so I moved on.

Although an extreme example, the article referred to above is a member of a very large set that scoffs at the sceptics’ preoccupation with uncertainty, whilst leaning lazily upon the ‘evidence’ of the 97% consensus to justify their own confidence. I think somebody needs to explain to these journalists that the concerns regarding climate model uncertainties are not just quibbles over the timing and scale of impact, but have much more to do with model structure, parameterization, hypothesizing after the results are known, and the possibility that probabilistic techniques are being misapplied in the calculation of epistemic uncertainty. If the science journalists would make a concerted effort to investigate these issues, rather than just peddling their half-baked warnings of ‘bogus uncertainty’, I might start to take them seriously. As it is, we must leave them in quiet self-satisfaction, polishing their ‘Science Journalist of the Year’ awards.

Bright and Shiny Things

By this stage in proceedings you are probably beginning to suspect that I do not have a particularly high opinion of science journalists. Well, this isn’t exactly true. The problem is that they have too high an opinion of themselves and, perhaps more often than not, too low an opinion of their readers. He who has such “strong story verification skills” advises that science journalism requires more than just ”putting across complex science to a lay readership whose attention must be grabbed from the numerous other shiny news stories on offer”. Indeed, he would wish you to know that the science journalists’ stock in trade is making unfamiliar ideas intelligible, compelling, relevant and entertaining”.

Not only is this tremendously patronizing (I am not so easily entranced by shiny things), it also betrays an arrogance that seems to be built into the journalistic psyche. We are invited to believe that the journalists are not only capable of understanding ‘complex science’ but also consummately capable of knowing just how much to dumb it down for the consumption of the ‘confused’ masses. I wouldn’t mind, but in climate science the IPCC has already done that job for them. The IPCC’s executive summaries are rendered simplistic specifically for the benefit of the journalists and politicians. Once the science has been simplified to that extent, it doesn’t really need any further simplification for my benefit.

Which leaves one wondering just what the real job is for the science journalist when it comes to climate science. To answer this question, I think a clue was offered by the late Alexander Cockburn7, when he said, The First Law of Journalism: to confirm prejudice, rather than contradict it”. If this really is the first law, then we can begin to see our mentor’s three commandments in their true light: Only journalists are allowed to profess knowledge in areas for which they have no expert authority; do not allow fringe views to be heard; and suppress uncertainty at all costs. Whilst science journalists may see themselves as educators rather than authority figures engaged in suppressing dissent, anyone who has been through an education system will tell you there is a fine line to be drawn between the two. As someone once said:

“What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”

Yes Boss, still shaking the tree Boss.


1 Okay, I’ll come clean – it was the Guardian. But this is the last time I’m going to give you a clue. I will not be naming names in this essay because my argument is with a profession, not any specific individual or individuals.

2 Not that all members of the IPCC are climate scientists, by any stretch of the imagination.

3 Okay, I’ll admit it – it’s the Guardian again. But this really is the very last time you get a clue.

4 Cook J., D. Nuccitelli, S.A. Green, M. Richardson, B. Winkler, R. Painting, R. Way, P. Jacobs, and A. Skuce, 2013, “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature”, Environ. Res. Lett. 8: 024024 (7 pp), doi: 0.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024.

5 Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, “Quantifying the consensus on global warming in the literature: a comment”, guest essay posted on WUWT, June 24, 2013.

6 Nosek B, et al. “Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science”, Science 28 Aug 2015: Vol. 349, Issue 6251, aac4716, doi: 10.1126/science.aac4716.

7 You might think it unfair of me to have brought up p-values when the article referred instead to confidence intervals. Unfortunately, on the subject of confidence intervals, things don’t get any better for the psychologists. In a study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (Robust misinterpretation of confidence intervals”, DOI 10.3758/s13423-013-0572-3), Rink Hoekstra of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands demonstrated that: “Both researchers and students in psychology have no reliable knowledge about the correct interpretation of confidence intervals …researchers hardly outperformed the students, even though the students had not received any education on statistical inference whatsoever.


8 Alexander Cockburn was one of that rarest of species: left-wing journalist, passionate environmentalist and CAGW sceptic.

John Ridgway is a physics graduate who, until recently, worked in the UK as a software quality assurance manager and transport systems analyst. He is not a climate scientist or a member of the IPCC but feels he represents the many educated and rational onlookers who believe that the hysterical denouncement of lay scepticism is both unwarranted and counter-productive

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August 25, 2017 5:10 am

Journalism is going the way of the dodo bird. Unbiased reporting and research are being replaced by ideological beliefs.

Reply to  John
August 25, 2017 5:21 am

Journalism never has been unbiased. It’s just ubiquitous today and technology aides dispersion of misinformation vastly more quickly than the print media of the past.

Reply to  Gary
August 25, 2017 5:55 am

Hear, Hear.
I barely ever read a newspaper before they went online. My knowledge of current affairs was woeful.
I now gobble up information simply because I can cross reference media claims with sites like WUWT and many others not focussed on climate change.
I love scepticism, I have had to admit being wrong on many occasions, but most of the time scepticism reveals the truth, whichever side it’s working for. In which case I’m 100% right in my attitude.
As time goes on, I’m getting more knowledgeable about climate scepticism, and more confident in my belief that, even if the planet does heat up, it has nothing whatsoever to do with CO2 (other than by the most minuscule amount) far less man made CO2. Indeed, I’m now of the opinion that we are heading for a significant cooling over the next 20 years or so.
Not ideal, but at least it’ll put the alarmists back in their box.

Reply to  Gary
August 25, 2017 5:58 am

Absolutely true, journalism has never been unbiased. It’s just today, with alternate sources they no longer have a lock on the dissemination of news so it has become more obvious. I think it was Mark Twain who said that if you don’t read the newspapers you’re uninformed, and if you do read the newspapers you’re misinformed.
But hey, groupthink is doubleplus good comrade.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Gary
August 25, 2017 7:17 am

“most of the time scepticism reveals the truth”
“The cynics are right nine times out of ten.”
—H.L. Mencken

Reply to  Gary
August 25, 2017 8:39 am

Aye Gary, this is nothing new, i.e. President John Adams being called a hermaphrodite by newspapers at the time. The source of this slander, Jefferson, is famously quoted as saying “a man who reads nothing at all is better educated than a man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
In my opinion it is past time to bring back a form of the Seditions Act. Journalists are granted a certain amount of power and sway by becoming members of the press. This power should come with the mandate of integrity, just like other professionals are upheld to certain standards in their fields. Freedom of the press has been abused into meaning the power to lie, slander, and present opinions as truths.

Reply to  Gary
August 25, 2017 10:04 am

“Journalism has always been biased ….”
Yes, there is bias in everything. But, when I look at the typical newspapers that were printed 80 years ago I see news as the primary intent, rather than entertainment as the primary intent. With entertainment as the primary intent, the bias (intended or unintended) is enhanced through the (creative) slant that the writer uses.
Although the opinion pieces, depending on the paper, may have been much more slanderous 80 years ago.

Reply to  John
August 25, 2017 7:04 am

“Okay, I’ll come clean – it was the Guardian. ” Oh, call me psychic … somehow I know that !
That particular “broadsheet” is now a tabloid, befitting it’s pathetic level of journalism.
The Guardian long since stopped being a newspaper and transformed itself into an online campaign platform.

Reply to  Greg
August 25, 2017 8:02 am

Is it not a Berliner? I believe it is going tabloid next year.

Reply to  Greg
August 25, 2017 9:14 am

I recall reading the announcement of the change of format. I have not seen paper copy in years, so you could be correct that they have not yet made the move.
The level of journalism has been tabloid for years.
Alan Rushbridger was the last editor-in-chief worthy of the name. In 2013 he decisively and courageously defied MI5 over the Snowden document release which he refused to hand over. At the end of 2014 he “resigned” to be replaced in 2015.

paul courtney
Reply to  Greg
August 25, 2017 11:22 am

SEaice: “Is it not a Berliner?” Yes, but the word is spelled .

paul courtney
Reply to  Greg
August 25, 2017 11:23 am

Oh, hell, I used signs on “birdcageliner” and it disappeared.

Reply to  Greg
August 25, 2017 5:36 pm

In the U.S., MSM are seen as propaganda outlets–NYT, LAT, ChiTrib, Networks–by those who’re keeping up with Oz’s two-minute drill now that the Internet has outed them. Especially true of government- ‘owned’ stations NPR, PBS, etc…

Reply to  John
August 25, 2017 7:24 am

The only thing unique about modern journalism is that it claims to be unbiased.
Journalism has always been biased, it’s just that in the past, they were honest about it.

Santa Baby
Reply to  John
August 25, 2017 9:27 am

The problem is postmodernism belief that nothing is truth and that their policy based “science” therefore can not be falsified? We are today in “Alice in Wonderland”?

William Astley
Reply to  John
August 25, 2017 11:05 am

Search for the truth. Try to go deeper into understanding what the real ‘problem’ is.
Journalism is not dead.
The problem is that the Journalists appear to have been taken over by a surreal weird meme.
Memes are the core beliefs which are not questioned by each person.
A meme also controls, in addition to all scientific beliefs, the deeper beliefs that we rarely discuss.
How for example how we believe a good person should act.
Question climate change?
How would a good person view the Statue Fight or the Anthem Fight?
A good example of a meme is an extreme Islamic country such as Iran.
Some memes have very strong resistance from criticism which stops changes which unintentionally leads to chaos.
The meme’s resistance to deep fundamental criticism is called Guffus.
Those following a Guffus meme for example, believe strongly that they should be ‘good’ and being good means not questioning the meme. Forcing people to all dress the same is a sign of the Guffus meme.
It is a fact, that CNN is spreading fake news and that CNN is actively starting pointless irrational fights.
Why? Why would good people active irrationally? Why would they attack their own government? They are not helping to solve any problems. They are creating problems.
It appears that the CNN owners and staff have been taken over by the Guffus Evil Meme.
CNN will of course only hire people how also strongly believe in the Guffus Evil Meme which along with the Fact that CNN is one of the largest news broadcasters in the country spreads the Guffus Evil Meme.

Robert from oz
Reply to  John
August 26, 2017 4:59 am

Not a new phenomenon this biased reporting , a famous American writer once said ” to not read newspapers is to be uninformed, to read newspapers is to be misinformed.

Adam Gallon
August 25, 2017 5:21 am

All the majority of environmental journalists do, is a copy & paste from the latest press release from Greenpi$$ or their ilk. Christopher Booker is a rare exception. Investigational journalism is a dying animal.

August 25, 2017 5:33 am

Nick Stokes
August 25, 2017 5:33 am

A long ramble to not much point. You gave the key quote:
“Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, the newspaper magnate who founded the UK’s Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, once defined journalism as “a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand”. So just what are the credentials that underpin the wall-to-wall sermons that science journalists issue so freely?”
The credentials are an ability to report what others say and do, and to figure out what their reading public is interested in. In this case, people are interested in what scientists say. A good journalist can report that, without creating science himself.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 25, 2017 8:19 am

“The credentials are an ability to report what others say and do, and to figure out what their reading public is interested in. ”
So, the ultimate journalistic goal is to parrot statements without verifying their accuracy and pretend to be able to read minds? Have you ever considered a career in journalism Nick??

Reply to  Aphan
August 25, 2017 9:32 am

A local news director once told me their reporters just write down what “experts” tell them and put it on the air. No checking, no questions, nothing. I learned from experience that if they are found to be completely in error, they just pretend like nothing happened and go on. I trust nothing the news tells me anymore. If I wanted unchecked videos, I have YouTube.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 25, 2017 8:35 am

Credentials also include being from the correct political side of the polarized climate change issues.
One of the NYTimes’ beat reporters on Climate Change is Tiatana Schlossberg.
Here’s her Wiki bio:

“Tatiana Schlossberg is an American journalist.[1] She is the middle child and younger daughter of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and a member of the large Kennedy family.
While at Yale University Schlossberg received a travel scholarship to explore “… the communities that grew out of the relationship between runaway slaves and coastal New England Native American tribes, particularly on Martha’s Vineyard in the nineteenth century.”[1]

Must have been a hard hitting assignment to get a scholarship to study on Martha’s Vineyard. Wonder if there were any political connections involved there?
Obviously being a Kennedy endows a kind of royal license to write and report on all sorts of environmental and climate science subjects with the clear, steely-eyed skepticism of a good science reporter….. Right?
She’s certainly doesn’t carry a political bias around with her hard-edge reporting… right?
A list of her latest “gems” from NYT.
It’s just another example of Liberal nepotism very much like Chelsea Clinton’s expertise being paraded around on the media landscape.
Hard working, honest journalism majors from non-Ivy League schools without famous Liberal parents need not apply.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
August 25, 2017 9:34 am


Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 25, 2017 8:37 am
The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t believe the media, in any form, these days. And while poor Lewandowsky, Cook, Oreskes, Kahn and others pound out idiotic psychological papers about why THEY think people are sceptical and attribute it to all sorts of cognitive malfunctions…one smart scientist actually noticed a pattern, formed a hypothesis, and did a study to see if her conclusions had merit:
It’s so obvious it makes people like me want to study people like Kahn and Lew and Gore and others to find out why THEY cannot see it:
People don’t give credibility to people who don’t take their own advice. Its just basic human nature to ignore/discredit/disbelieve hypocrites.
The solution then, for alarmists who want to be viewed as credible when telling others what to do, or how to live is a mere two words:

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Aphan
August 25, 2017 9:11 am

Liberal alarmists are really good at lecturing about the carbon footprint of others, while ignoring their own. Or in fact, it is more just that sacrifice is for the little people and not for a Kennedy, a Clinton, a Gore, an Obama, and all their strap hanger-on-ers sycophants looking to ride the Progressive gravy train to the pinnacle of a Feudal (lords and serfs) societal model.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Aphan
August 25, 2017 9:27 am

Ed Begley, Jr – entertainer and environment type – does, in fact practice what he preaches. He has ridden his bicycle to the Oscars and built a LEED platinum-ranking home. I suspect he “knows” much about environmental issues.
However, what one “knows” is frequently wrong and when it disagrees with the facts – insert Richard Feynman quote here – it is wrong.
Therefore, if Al Gore sells his big home and moves to a small one, and if Bill Nye stops flying around the country, and if John Cook buys a Nissan Leaf with his own money, …
I will not believe they are credible. They are still wrong.

Reply to  Aphan
August 25, 2017 9:36 am

While psychologically, living as one preaches increases the chances of being persuasive, it really doesn’t address the accuracy of the claim. Preaching a catastrophe is coming and taking no person action indicates the speaker does not believe what he says.
The accuracy of the claim is separate from these behaviors.

Reply to  Aphan
August 27, 2017 10:42 am

Don’t forget Babs Streisand who bought a couple of Prius cars for her staff. Think they number about 40. It’s a start right? Yeah, that was sarcasm.
Gore has 2 large mansions on either coast and flies private between them. His carbon footprint is a large as a small town’s is. Asshat that he is.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 25, 2017 8:47 am

As my esteemed relative certainly knew, it is the great privilege of media owners to use and control their journalists like hounds. That is why many men in history have sought the pinnacle of media empire. So they have power! These interests are entirely separate from “the public good”.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 25, 2017 9:13 am

Nick, do you mean to express satisfaction with the state of climate (and general) science reporting in the newspapers? I must say I am surprised, considering your enthusiasm for ferreting out even minor factual inaccuracies on these pages …
The “not much point” of this essay is that science journalism is dead, because the so-called science journalists not only don’t have a clue — which would just be par for the course — but they no longer even know they haven’t got a clue, and thus they won’t even try to get a clue.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 25, 2017 9:36 pm

A journalist is a know-nothing wordsmith that usually doesn’t understand what others are saying. I have been interviewed twice in my life and they put words in my mouth that I never uttered. Perhaps a good journalist CAN report, but there are very few good journalists, especially when it comes to science and technology. If they actually understood the science, they would be working in the field instead of pandering to laymen.

Robert from oz
Reply to  Nick Stokes
August 26, 2017 5:04 am

In reply to Nick , I recently came across a story from the ABC about scientists struggling to find any coral life around Somoa , even you should admit a reporter who thinks this is fact and goes straight to print without checking should be sacked .

August 25, 2017 5:45 am

I am a journalist, although I’ve spent most of my career in the business world. In journalism school we were taught to present both sides of any story, even if you personally were sure one side was clearly better; the more so if the subject was highly controversial like “climate change.” Any reporter who doesn’t do that is not practicing journalism, they are practicing Public Relations. They are an advocate, not a reporter. Stop calling them “science journalists.” They give journalism a bad name. Thanks to them many people don’t believe anything any journalist says on any subject, even when reporting “hard news” that is not controversial. Journalists as a profession have a lower trust rating than politicians!

Reply to  TDBraun
August 25, 2017 5:50 am

So true. Reading a report where a journalist obviously has no expertise, a reader with expertise in that topic tosses the paper aside, and may not pick it up again.

Reply to  TDBraun
August 25, 2017 8:15 am

So you advocate that an article on the space station should include the dissenting view that the world is flat?

Reply to  seaice1
August 25, 2017 8:27 am

In radiative balance / CO2 back-radiation models, the world is flat.

Reply to  seaice1
August 25, 2017 9:00 am

seaice1, seaice1, seaice1-
Reductio ad absurdum! (I’ll save you some time….it’s not a Harry Potter reference)

john harmsworth
Reply to  seaice1
August 25, 2017 9:04 am

How about something relevant, seaice1? Like the fact that the international space station is an exercise in international politics more so than science. And a fantastic waste of scientific expenditure.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  seaice1
August 25, 2017 10:37 am

That strawman is pretty flat, Seaice. You won’t get much action out of that. Work harder at it next time, m’kay?

john harmsworth
Reply to  TDBraun
August 25, 2017 9:02 am

TDBraun- Every journalist seems to think they understand and honour their requirements to be impartial. So why is it that so few seem to be able to demonstrate that impartiality?

August 25, 2017 5:46 am

I come from a career in journalism, and I say this essay is beyond wonderful. When the internal questionnaires circulated, seeking wisdom from the staff, my answer to the big question of what we most needed, and therefore lacked, in our reporting was ‘expertise’.

August 25, 2017 5:55 am

As I recall, the science editor of the Wash Post several years ago, made some blunder that not even the Post could tolerate. I believe this fake science editor was transferred to the fashion desk.

Ziiex Zeburz
August 25, 2017 6:06 am

(note to self, In J. Ridgway’s company, keep your mouth shut )

Clay Sanborn
Reply to  Ziiex Zeburz
August 25, 2017 7:10 pm

Ziiex – Hear hear. Ditto. What a delightful and cogent read. I feel like there has been some order, clarity, sanity, and truth given back to the chaos of this world. Thank you John Ridgway!

August 25, 2017 6:13 am

“I suggest that the apparent paradox that causes the politicians and journalists to wring their hands in agonised bemusement has a starkly simple solution; they just have to entertain the possibility that they could be wrong. But, since such an idea is unconscionable to those who were placed on this earth to enlighten the confused, I’m not anticipating a mass epiphany any time soon.”
This is beautiful.
Only the English know how to use the English language.

I Came I Saw I Left
Reply to  chaamjamal
August 25, 2017 9:12 am

I am more often than not impressed by English English writers’ skills.

August 25, 2017 6:23 am

Saul Alinsky wrote 2 book’s about how to control the population of the ignorant masses to support an agenda. “The Revillie for Radicals” and “The Rules for Radicals” that have been historically the leftist playbooks were distributed widely by many New Liberals and Progressives in institutions of indoctrination we refere to as schools of higher learning…where these inbred journalists come together with their future politicians and scientists. When mixed with the Leftist ideologies of Marx, Lenin, Mussolini and others like Hitler that Saul Alinsky obtained his ideologies from, and people like Hillary Clinton and Obama idolized – along with those like KKK Cyclops Robert Byrd and Margaret Sanger – swaying the population has been a long “slow boiling the frog” to where we are today.

Reply to  johchi7
August 25, 2017 11:42 am

Probably because the ‘moderator” doesn’t see a connection to what I wrote to this article, it’s been awaiting moderation most of the day and was about the 5th comment made on this.
There are simple connections to why journalist on science do what they do – as with all issues these days. It has to fit the USA Democratic Party or worldly socialist agenda and any opposition is seen as skepticism against their ideologies. From the writings of Marx and Engles of the 1800’s on Socialist Communism to the Progressive Movement after our Civil War ideologies of a more oppressive Federal Government over the Constitution based State’s and population right’s has been infiltrated by politicians like Theodore Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Bush’s 1 and 2, Bill Clinton and B.H. Obama that have each in many ways changed the USA, that the Schools have become increasingly radical left-wing and venomously anti-Capitalism and that indoctrination effects every field of higher learning of journalist and sciences to placate to the party that supports them most. Marxism was taught in the universities and colleges here in the USA since the Civil War Era that most of the then politicians and journalist came from. People like John Dewey – a known Communist sympathizer – was instrumental in changing how teaching was done in all our schools. The Frankfurt School moved from Hitler’s Germany in 1933 as they were Communist being persecuted by the Fascist Movement to Geneva and then to New York City in 1935 to become part of Columbia University and that morphed into other institutions by those graduates learning those ideologies as they taught in other schools. These are the Cause and Effect of why this article is pointing out these problems.

Reasonable Skeptic
August 25, 2017 6:38 am

Here is a CBC documentary that I found interesting
The Trouble with Experts
People are more comfortable hearing from “Experts” but as we (scientifically) get more and more sophisticated, we move further and further from certainty and towards uncertainty. Some people simply don’t hear or understand uncertainty very well, while others do.
The phrase: “Science says that warming will cause X” is a sentence you will see commonly in articles. What they really mean is “Science suggests with [insert level of certainty] that warming will cause X, however it may cause Y or Z instead.” People like experts to be certain and editors will not want to waste type space on clarity when they are more interested in selling a product than representing reality.

Dave in Canmore
Reply to  Reasonable Skeptic
August 25, 2017 7:32 am

RS says “The phrase: “Science says that warming will cause X” is a sentence you will see commonly in articles. What they really mean is…”
What they really mean is not that “SCIENCE says” but “Researcher Joe Blow says…” The difference is that anyone questioning the conclusion must argue not that Joe Blow made a bad experiment or conclusion, but rather that somehow “science” itself is wrong. The very wording lays a linguistic trap for anyone who disagrees. Journalists are guilty of this as well.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Dave in Canmore
August 25, 2017 9:19 am

An excellent point, Dave. Entirely correct and important to remember for anyone interested in digging below the hype and headlines. Often, I find what is just as important as the story is what they choose to not talk about.

Reply to  Dave in Canmore
August 25, 2017 12:00 pm

That’s Dr. Blow to you.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Reasonable Skeptic
August 25, 2017 8:31 am

Actually you are both wrong, what that statements means is that “warming [if it ever happened, which its 97% probable that it won’t] could well cause X”.
Like the IPCC, its job is not to question warming, it’s to document its effects.
BY limiting its terms of reference, any awkward questions about the actual AGW proposition are declared ultra vires

Reply to  Reasonable Skeptic
August 25, 2017 9:13 am

“Some people simply don’t hear or understand uncertainty very well, while others do.”
It’s humanly impossible to hear uncertainty that isn’t stated. Every single person alive adds their own personal inferences to everything they read, and those inferences can be correct or incorrect. Making scientific statements as if they are facts, rather than estimates, demonstrates either a lack of integrity, or an inability to communicate honestly.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Reasonable Skeptic
August 25, 2017 9:16 am

If only you could demonstrate that the CBC ever questions the expert opinions it so often parrots.

Reply to  Reasonable Skeptic
August 25, 2017 10:14 am

My favorite definition of expert is: “a former drip under pressure–ex-spurt.”

Paul Courtney
Reply to  Reasonable Skeptic
August 25, 2017 4:02 pm

RS: Thanks for explaining what Seth Borenstein (for instance) Really means when he quotes science (his version of “Simon says”). Always thought people meant what they said, but CliSci is different. And you Really nailed it when you figured they shortened it up to save valuable type space, certainly not bias. That type space gets even more highly prized when it comes to gross hypocrisy of CliSci’s like the leaders of your movement; they don’t print that at all. That frees up alotta type space to report on right wing hypocrites and racism and stuff you Really wanna read.

August 25, 2017 7:10 am

There is some confusion between the role of a Science Journalist and a Science Popularizer.
Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov were Science Popularizers and Science Writers– it was their profession to take complex science and explain it to the general public in a way that it could be understood — in newspaper columns, magazine articles and books. These guys and gals really need a deep understanding of a broad cross-section of science, its methods, history, underpinnings, etc.
Science Journalists (“reporters”) are mean to report on the current news — they most current happenings in science. They are bound by the Journalists Code of Ethics (or should be). They need to be knowledgeable enough to correctly communicate findings, point up weaknesses in studies, background a bit, etc. They are not expected to be experts in everything, nor need they be. They do have to be honest — able to write the news without injecting their own opinions and bias.
Science Essayists, like myself, are a sub-set of Science Writers. We write short pieces on topics with the intention of helping the reader understand the something specific about something in the science world. science Essayists do not need to be experts in the topics they write about — they need to be good writers, they need to be able to do research and understand science topics and how science works.
There is very little real journalism being done today — most journalists (sceince or politics and everything else) are writing opinions pieces disguised as news stories or are writing outright advocacy pieces).
The Editor-in-Chief of the Wall Street Journal pointed this out yesterday.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
August 25, 2017 7:33 am

“These guys and gals really need a deep understanding of a broad cross-section of science, its methods, history, underpinnings, etc.”
That’s Isaac Asimov. A brilliant man.

Steve Fraser
Reply to  TA
August 25, 2017 9:44 am

And could spin a good yarn…

Reply to  TA
August 25, 2017 3:07 pm

TA & Steve ==> Right on both counts. No one really comparable active today.

August 25, 2017 7:14 am

Ridgeway and Ridley, the R2s that give the D2s their meaning. Thank you for a dyspeptic analysis of today’s fear based journalism. Here’s to British minds, set apart from the masses!

August 25, 2017 7:28 am

The “97 percent” meme is a lie. As this article says, the real figure of consensus in the Cook study is 1.6 percent. Of course, the alarmists would look silly quoting a 1.6 percent consensus, so Cook distorts the findings of his study and claims a 97 percent consensus.
This lie really ought to be shot down, since every alarmist Tom, Dick and Harry falls back on this false claim. There is no 97 percent consensus and this should be pointed out at every opportunity.
Alarmist: 97 percent of scientists agree humans are causing the climate to change due to human-caused CO2.
Skeptic: No, only 1.6 percent of scientists say that.

Leo Smith
Reply to  TA
August 25, 2017 8:43 am

Read, learn, mark and inwardly digest:
Lie or not, that (97%) meme is the most oft quoted…
What does this tell you?
That its not about truth, its about constructing a fraudulent narrative, and those that repeat it are either fools or knaves. Or both.
This is not, an honest mistake.

Leo Smith
Reply to  TA
August 25, 2017 8:46 am
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 25, 2017 9:17 am

Guessing some of the hot-button words sent up the red flags?

john harmsworth
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 25, 2017 9:27 am

Well, it made it past some reasonable hurdles, I think. It is true and important to remember. This is not really about science although we wish it was. It is political advocacy.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 25, 2017 9:34 am

Most likely “f raud” was found imbedded in one of your words.

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 25, 2017 10:35 am

The word “fr@udulent” is what got the post flagged, Leo.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 25, 2017 11:14 am

Its fràud really not an allowable thing to say?

michael hart
August 25, 2017 7:36 am

Yup. Many of these self proclaimed “science communicators” are not even able to communicate what the question is, never mind the uncertainties in the answer.

John Bell
August 25, 2017 7:37 am

Even a “climate scientist” is very limited, he can not do experiments on the climate or the weather to verify a theory.

Tom Halla
August 25, 2017 7:37 am

There is a tendency to recall the “good old days” of either politics or journalism. I do not think they ever really existed, definitely not during my lifetime (I’m 61), and probably never. It is more that the approved narrative was not challenged during the first appearance of the story, rather than years or decades later.

August 25, 2017 7:42 am

Science historian John Burnham explains the history of science journalism in his critique, How Superstition Won and Science Lost: Popularizing Science and Health in the United States. He explains that science was initially popularized by the “Men of Science”, who were generalist scientists themselves, in the late 1800’s. By the 1900’s, however, science had become sufficiently specialized that there were no more generalists. And the science journalists took over.
Yet, within very short order, huge problems emerged — namely, quantum mechanics and Relativity. The problem was that the Men of Science had succeeded in popularizing science by extolling its explanatory virtues (relative to superstition and religion, mainly). So, when the new complex, controversial theories came out, the public asked the science journalists to explain the confusion.
They failed, and the practice of science journalism fell into a state of disarray for some years. What they did, to recover, was they changed their mode of operation. Burnham explains:
“While innumerable newspapermen of the 1920s tried to explain relativity, and in later years other baffling ideas, or to explain why something could not be explained, only a few scientists attempted to draw conclusions for the public from the unsettling findings of the new physics and other mathematical or abstract studies. Popularizers of every stripe found themselves instead portraying confusion. They therefore often had to readjust what they were doing, because they could no longer appeal to the paradigmatic act of explaining the mystery. They were, rather, being called upon to explain the confusion, which was particularly difficult without the vision of ultimate unity that earlier popularizers had enjoyed and exploited. The newspapers were not to blame, instead the editor of the New York Times in 1935: ‘The function of the newspaper is primarily to report what the leading scientists do and say. If they contradict each other, and there is confusion, the newspapers merely picture the confusion and do not created it.’
The result of this challenge to the unity of science was to encourage popularizers to redouble the emphasis that had been developing on portraying the results, rather than the ideas, of science. The Science Year Book published in the 1940s, for example, usually had ‘aviation’ as a major category and consisted almost entirely of articles about applied science developments. As early as 1903, W.S. Franklin, a physicist at Lehigh, observed: ‘Everything that appears in the name of science in our newspapers and magazines relates only to results. Have any of you seen in our newspapers or popular magazines any detailed description of the principles and methods used by Marconi in his wireless telegraphy?’ More than half a century later, Palmer Wright, a Dow Chemical chemist, wondered if popularizers should not build on applied science for understanding. ‘The popular thrust,’ he observed, ‘is toward the what, not the why of science.’
So it was that popularized science in the twentieth century continued as in the nineteenth to emphasize progress — but progress now in terms more exclusively of the ‘applications mankind can make from [the] marvelous findings’ of ‘pure science,’ as a 1926 writer put it. But the new context of progress had further implications. Any facts at all could be digested into the popular science of results; they needed no further context than that they were part of the advance of science. Thus a discovery at any level of science reported in the 1920s was a fact and a part of the progress of science; so, too, was a machine of the 1930s or a cure of the 1940s a fact and a part of the progress of science. This approach to popularizing was compatible with the rise of general science in the schools, in which teachers emphasized application and turned away from the work of researchers that was abstract and unpopular. Even in the 1960s, reported Howard E. Gruber, ‘high school teachers generally approach[ed] science teaching as a matter of conveying science as established facts and doctrines’ rather than ‘science teaching in which science [was] treated as a way of thought.’ In the more general popularizing of the twentieth century, audiences would have been lucky to get doctrines in addition to lists of products.” (p214-216)
The American public today finds itself still apparently stuck in this new science journalism m.o., nearly a full century later.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Chris Reeve
August 25, 2017 9:37 am

An interesting assessment. I think the implications of relativity caused people to “lose touch” with science to some extent, believing a basic understanding to be unobtainable. The resulting cult of genius that Einstein generated separated scientists from ordinary folk ( not his fault). I personally think that the Copenhagen interpretation contributed to this whereas the deBroglie pilot wave theory was the better interpretation was much more accessible. But just like climate change, who questions the Copenhagen interpretation?

Reply to  john harmsworth
August 25, 2017 10:30 am

. . . who questions the Copenhagen interpretation?
Einstein did. Look up EPR paradox (for Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen).

Andrew Cooke
August 25, 2017 7:48 am

I know what I had to study and go through to get my engineering degree. I do not trust a journalist, most whom were too scared to take a simple Calculus 1 class, to expound on things about which they have never even learned the basics. I went to school with journalists. Most were scared of basic math and were experts in public relations.
I won’t even get started on the use of logic and the rules of logic.

Reply to  Andrew Cooke
August 25, 2017 9:19 am

I’d say that most of them appear to be experts in public relations, or THINK they are, but the fact that the majority of Americans have no faith in the press these days actually demonstrates that journalists are HORRIBLE at relating to the public. 🙂

August 25, 2017 7:55 am

Modern “climate science” is goobermint bureaucrat climate modelers playing computer games, and making WRONG wild guess predictions of the future average temperature, without even knowing exactly what variables control the average temperature.
Since these goobermint bureaucrat “scientists” also own the average temperature actuals, they are free to adjust historical temperature data until it matches their predictions!
And “adjust” they do.
Somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3 of the claimed global warming since 1880 is from “adjustments” to raw data, 1880’s thermometers that tend to read low, and inaccurate “infilling” when real data are not available.
Making wild guesses of the future average temperature, that are far from accurate,
based on a false climate physics model where CO2 controls the climate,
is not REAL science.
It is JUNK science.
Why would we need REAL journalists to cover JUNK science?
They might spoil the “fun”.
JUNK science requires JUNK journalists to promote it, and that’s what we’ve got !
We have leftists journalists rewriting press releases from leftist goobermint climate gamers!
The goobermint scientists provide scary predictions of the future climate that they are paid for (just like scientists paid by cigarette companies told us smoking tobacco was safe).
The writers come up with a scary headline, and a hard hitting story, about how the earth is dying even while the current climate feels wonderful to normal people without political bias !
Stories about dangerous global warming, or cooling, have been in newspapers for over 100 years — although much more often in the past 40 years.
And few readers seem to notice the climate has been improving for 40 years — slightly warmer nights, and more CO2 to accelerate green plant growth.
Old predictions of doom are forgotten (DDT, global cooling, hole in ozone layer, acid rain, exploding silicone breast implants, etc.) … and replaced by new predictions of doom (global warming, ocean acidification, Trump, etc.).
The leftist politicians take whatever prediction of doom is most believed, and claim they have a “solution”.
And that “solution” will require a more powerful government, and more regulations to control the private sector (whether the popular problem is global cooling, global warming acid rain, etc. — the solution is always the same — elect Democrats to control and increase taxes on private sector corporations)
This coming climate change catastrophe hoax is a political strategy to sell socialism to “save the earth”, based on JUNK science, not REAL science.
And the political strategy needs strong support from JUNK journalists to make it work.
You don’t have to be an expert on anything to realize that scary predictions of the future have been wrong almost 100% of the time in the past … so there is no reason to believe them now.
Even predictions of the future that are not scary are likely to be wrong
Thera are studies that show “experts” are worse at predicting the future than ordinary people, because they are extremely reluctant to say “I don’t know”, which is usually the right answer to a question of what will happen in the future.
Climate blog for non-scientists:
No ads – no money for me – a public service

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Richard Greene
August 26, 2017 4:18 am

1880’s thermometers that tend to read low
so why do they adjust those mostly down?

August 25, 2017 7:58 am

I always remember an article some 20 years ago in the Daily Telegraph by the Science Editor. He stated that Pi is a recurring number. If only….because then Pi would be a rational number and could be represented exactly as a fraction. Think how convenient that would be! And no need to publish that book of Pi to a million places!

August 25, 2017 8:01 am

Great article Mr Ridgway. Look forward to the next one.

August 25, 2017 8:02 am

The primary purpose of a journalist is to sell media, or put another way, to present to the public what they will want to consume. Accuracy and truthfulness are clearly secondary to this primary purpose, but are still important to the consumer. This creates a tension in journalism between the truth and what sells. The more the truth is easily understood and verified, the less the journalist can embellish the story with what sells.
Climate change is neither understood or verifiable, making it the ideal story for embellishments of all kinds! It is also portrayed as a disaster and disaster is the biggest seller of news, making it a huge win-win for the media’s bottom line!
As Texas floods from Corpus Christi to Houston over the next 5 days, more and more people will be turning to the media for images and information. As the media looks for ways to make the story sound even worse than it already is (to sell even more news), they will undoubtedly embellish the story with the threat of climate change. They will not be able to talk about hurricanes becoming bigger and more frequent with man-made global warming, because everyone knows that is not true, after our record setting hurricane drought, but they will embellish the rising sea level aspect. They will say that the flooding is worse because of AGW, and threaten all coastal areas with more of the same in the future! It’s terrifying! It can’t be proven wrong, and it sells! It’s the perfect story for selling news, even though it is complete BS!

Curious George
August 25, 2017 8:14 am

BBC very wisely disallowed comments on their website.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
August 25, 2017 8:31 am

A good question to consider in this context is why so many of the readership of newspapers like the Guardian have deserted their “scientifically informed” tutors in recent years, despite the clearly exasperated irritation of the climate scientists who have been driving the scare.
I am often pleasantly surprised by the way that people who are not particularly deeply read on the sceptic viewpoint just laugh at the latest idiotic frightfest that climate “scientists” wave in their faces through the all too compliant media. It seems you can only threaten disaster tomorrow so many times before people prefer their own experience over time and the bad news for the scaremongers is that the worst of all outcomes has come to pass – they’ve been seen through and nothing in the way of more screams of catastrophe is going to restore their credibility.
Then there is the prospect that when people finally understand the cost of all the green antics and farming of subsidies that is impoverishing ordinary people finally becomes widely understood that there will be a very angry reckoning in store.
That’ s why when the head of an energy company states that prices are being raised because of climate policies there is a rush of media commentators and climate scientists to hastily gloss over what is really being stated and claim that green energy is really cheaper than anything else. It all feels like fingers being inserted in leaks in a Dutch dyke while the whole structure is increasingly groaning with the weight of reality being held back.
The increasingly pathetic Guardian is falling apart and its green activism is one of the reasons it is being deserted by those who can judge matters for themselves.

August 25, 2017 8:34 am

In fact, what the Cook et al. study seemed to be claiming was that 97% of those published papers that had been examined, and ***had expressed an opinion, endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gasses were the main cause of the current warming.****
This is where Cook’s sleight-of-hand is greatest. Why does his conclusion require someone to express an opinion? The fact is by NOT doing so they necessarily fail to expressly support AGW. Of course that doesn’t fit his bogus narrative…

Reply to  CheshireRed
August 25, 2017 8:39 am

Hey moderator, why aren’t you guys covering the hurricane hitting Texas?

john harmsworth
Reply to  babazaroni
August 25, 2017 9:47 am

Well, it’s weather. So I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do about it. The tv is full of news if that’s what you want.

Reply to  CheshireRed
August 25, 2017 9:34 am

The Cook et al 2013 study actually STATED that outright….that it was 97% of the 33% of abstracts that took a position either way, took the “consensus” opinion. Which means that 66% of the abstracts took NO position. He then used flawed logic to justify making an enormous assumption about WHY the majority of abstracts (66%) did NOT take a position. It’s a literal forehead-smacker.
It was the White House that then tweeted out the infamous, incorrect, completely unrepresentative of the study sound bite that “97% of scientists agreed that…..”
So the question has always been…..WHY didn’t any of the authors of Cook et al 2013 publish a press release that corrected the White House’s obviously incorrect statement regarding their study? Did they WANT the President to look like an illiterate liar? Did they just simply not CARE about scientific integrity and honesty? Did they have a hidden agenda that was supported by the White House’s incorrect statement? So many conclusions could be logically argued….

john harmsworth
Reply to  Aphan
August 25, 2017 9:49 am

When it comes to constructing lies, scientists are pikers. Politicians are pros.

I Came I Saw I Left
August 25, 2017 8:51 am

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – It must really suck to spend all that time and money getting a degree in journalism (or whatever) to then have to work as a presstitute to pay the bills.

August 25, 2017 9:01 am

Literally my first week on the job years ago we were asked to work with a “star” upcoming want to be science journalist. She had recently graduated top of her class both in journalism and some science (never sure which one) from a major NE university. We spent a long day showing her our research, explaining why and also why we weren’t doing things. We explained our funding source, etc, etc. Her article came out three days later headlines in the paper. Nothing she wrote was correct, not even our names which we had spelled for her more than once. She didn’t get punished until later; we did by our bosses. She was ultimately fired, though I was told got a bigger and better job as a scientific journalist at some big city paper. I worked with the news media at all levels on average of every two weeks the rest of my long career. While in early days there were a few that wanted to get the scientific facts correct, as time went on that was no longer a priority for any journalist I dealt with. In my later years our organization required us to take a class with a news journalist specialist. His goal was to teach us how to better deal with the news media. He started by explaining the background, socioeconomically and politically, of the average journalist, then the same for those that had worked their way up to editor, etc. This instructor was very liberal. Yet he clearly said that the average news journalists, newspaper, TV and radio, were usually more liberal to far left of him. He taught us that if you wanted to sell them a story you should couch the subject in as liberal political and socioeconomic terms as possible. He also explained that reporting the truth was not a high priority for most news journalist, but especially their editors. A really good “story” was what they were looking for and high on the list were “sky is falling stories” and of course “if it bleeds it leads.”

August 25, 2017 9:11 am

“science should be reproducible” number 4 perhaps.

Tom Anderson
August 25, 2017 9:32 am

“Cocooned in their own certainty, such people are unlikely to suspect that their lack of confusion betrays an unhealthy hubris.”
Certainty doesn’t come into it, and the root problem is what passes for English today. My generations-old Webster’s Second International Dictionary, published when people knew the value of communicating with care, defines
A. “Certainty” as “1. That which is certain, sure; the truth; the fact. … 3. A fact or truth unquestionably established.”
B. “Certitude” as merely the “state of being certain, specifically a freedom from doubt; assurance; confidence.”
If nobody knows the difference between the words “certainty” and “certitude” or even cares) how can they make the distinction logically?

john harmsworth
Reply to  Tom Anderson
August 25, 2017 9:53 am

Logic is a mythical creature from antiquity to most people. In the current context it just gets between people and what they want.

Reply to  Tom Anderson
August 25, 2017 10:47 am

Fanatics have a lot of certitude, too.
Al Gore has a lot of certitude.

John Ridgway
Reply to  Tom Anderson
August 27, 2017 7:16 am

Actually, on second thoughts Tom, I think the fact that I say ‘cocooned in their own certainty’ rather than ‘cocooned in certainty’ indicates that I am referring to a mental state, i.e. ‘self-assurance’ or ‘confidence’. I still agree that ‘cocooned in certitude’ may have been clearer, but I think the point you are making is more pedantic than I at first appreciated, and may even be technically unjustified.
Still, all the best to you Tom. I appreciate your input.

Tom Anderson
August 25, 2017 9:45 am

Sorry. What I meant to say (briefly at last) is that the parties in question are cocooned in their own “certitude.” It is a point that, as I recall, Judith Curry made recently. It states a leading cause for lack of progress here if the funded side conveniently, indolently relies on its own certitude in the belief that it is certainty.

John Ridgway
Reply to  Tom Anderson
August 25, 2017 10:58 am

Yes Tom, you are indeed correct in pulling me up on the faux pas I committed by using the term ‘certainty’ when I had obviously meant ‘certitude’. However, if you had been a little more charitable and observant you might have also noted that my previous WUWT article, ‘What Ever Happened to the Science?’, makes a similar point to that made in the Judith Curry article (i.e. that certitude and uncertainty coexist within climate science). If you are prepared to accept that Dr Curry understands the difference, then you must surely grant me the same respect and accept that I had made a simple slip of the pen on this occasion. To suggest that I do not “know the value of communicating with care”, on the basis of one error (no matter how embarrassing) is a little harsh I would have thought.
Kudos to you Tom, but can we tone it down a little?

August 25, 2017 9:46 am

Very interesting article. See David Dunning’s excellent essay, “We Are All Confident Idiots”

August 25, 2017 9:53 am

Well the problem is very simple, but most folks either don’t want to face it or they are absolutely ignorant of the actual state of our politics. As for why better info and arguments don’t seem to have any effect, that’s the first thing you need to understand. The Left is doing rhetoric while you guys are doing dialectic – meaning a modernistic, reason based approach to dialog in our civic space. And while rhetoric has always been used by both ‘sides’, what has happened to the Left is that they have concluded they already won the culture wars, so they are just using rhetoric to eliminate and rid themselves of us “bitter clingers”.
What they are doing now is consolidating their power. As an aside, anyone who thinks this is conspiracy thinking is invited to debate me here or on a Youtube channel or other fora. Without understanding the 150 year campaign the Left has been engaged in to destroy our institutions and overtake them, you will be lost in this world, and will keep trying to reason with people who don’t care. Look at the “97% consensus” point. It’s nonsense. A casual web search (harder and harder these days due to Google’s fascism) reveals that the study was garbage and even then, doesn’t even prove the point the liars claim it does.
What’s going on there? Well, folks like Obama and Gore and scientists like Schmidt and others don’t care about contravening information. They are allowed this privilege due to the bent of our journalists and other information media, as they are in on the game. They receive praise and clicks and awards and attention for supporting the lies – and don’t bother to even look at contravening info either. Because they don’t have to. There is no punishment for not doing so.
Their useful idiots in the Dem party and others simply don’t have a clue. But they’ve been sold the notion that they are morally superior and those who disagree are enemies of science and are stupid. The willing, complicit media produces content and memes to aggrandize that superior moral stance, and they keep feeding the emotions.
The other part of the problem are the effects of postmodern thinking among our elite, even as many of them don’t really acknowledge it. Postmodernism rejects reason as valid. Combine it with neo-marxism and things like “Critical Theory” arise from postmodernism, telling the student/activist/reader/political hacks that the only moral position one can take in society is to oppose the powerful. No matter what. Data and evidence are seen a priori as necessarily a product of our bigoted, oppressive patriarchal, white supremacist culture. So they can be ignored, set aside and forgotten.
In fact, the SJW/Prog/Marxist activists actually claim their “lived experiences” are more valid than “data” and other white man tricknology. Except when some daft study “proves” their POV correct of course. Then data and evidence and reason matter. Yes, it’s that bad. And if you stop and think about it, you’ll realize I’m correct. That should freak you out cuz of where it means we are heading…
I’m not kidding. This kind of nonsense isn’t just happening in climate science. We are much farther down the rabbit hole than most folks who aren’t on the Left think. Revolution is coming, and you’d better be prepared or you will be taking orders from these lying, insane, politically hysterical maniacs as they herd us into “re-education camps”. And don’t kid yourselves, our children are already in neo-marxist, progressive SJW training camps – we call them schools and universities. Hate speech legislation is already in congress, and the definition of hate is essentially any political or policy position that isn’t Progressive. I’m not kidding.
Within 5 years, maybe less, this site will not be legal and won’t exist. Wake up. We are being overrun by a neo-marxist revolution who’s cadres have been doing their work for 100+ years. We are “backlash” and are to be eliminated in the name of progress. Blogging won’t make a dent in it, nor will normal politics.

Reply to  scribblerg
August 25, 2017 2:15 pm

To Scrabbler, who said:
“Within 5 years, maybe less, this site will not be legal and won’t exist. Wake up. We are being overrun by a neo-marxist revolution who’s cadres have been doing their work for 100+ years. We are “backlash” and are to be eliminated.”
My response:
Don’t make predictions — they are almost always wrong !
Democrats in the US have been LOSING political seats at an unprecedented rate since 2010, AND an amateur politician with a crazy Twitter habit defeated a well funded Democrat who had practiced running for president once before, was supported by O’Bummer, and also had the support of about 97% of newspapers.
The current trend (since 2010) seems to be a backlash against socialism / big government — the backlash could end next week — but those are facts.
Socialism has been the fastest growing (secular) religion in the 20th century and maybe some people are recognizing the results are not very good (as in Venezuela)
I generally agree with your comment, other than the gloomy prediction.
Republicans will debate you when you don’t agree with them,
Democrats will just hate you when you don’t agree with them.
Perhaps this is a struggle of irrational Hate versus logical Debate.
The mainstream press is certainly not helping the logical debate side.

August 25, 2017 10:11 am

John commented at 5:10 am: “…Unbiased reporting and research are being replaced by ideological beliefs…”
+1 The fact that all the misinformation is being published constantly and dissenting views not allowed points to a problem much deeper than ‘science’. The Progressives are showing their ugly side….. which can be any side.

Joel Snider
August 25, 2017 10:23 am

What happened to the journalism? The same thing that happened to the science.
They became activists. It happens in every field that Progressives take over.

Curious George
Reply to  Joel Snider
August 25, 2017 1:24 pm

There is no difference between a progressive journalism and brainwashing.

August 25, 2017 11:42 am

I think you are overly kind to Cook. My reading is that it can be even a trivial association with CO2 to be counted among the 97%. Given the fact that he discarded over 66% of all the papers he examined because they did not mention mankind as a source however trivial of Global Warming, I would suggest that those which remained were almost certain to affirm some association. If they did not believe it, why would they mention it. So selection bias or cherry picked data.

Reply to  CMS
August 25, 2017 12:48 pm

I realize that, but even if their findings were valid and reliable, all that their method confirmed is that almost all climate scientists believe humans have some effect on climate. It’s a nonsense from top to bottom. It’s Orwellian 1984esgue politics and social control and totalitarianism and authoritarianism and suppression and oppression come to life right before our eyes.

August 25, 2017 11:52 am

While psychology certainly has more than its share of charlatans and more than its share of politically rather than scientific motivated members, you are doing a disservice to the history of Statistics. Psychology and Sociology have both been great contributors to the development of statistical techniques and applications. Much of psychology, and particularly Social Psychology, in use today, was popularized by its application in psychological research. That being said, I will share a comment made by one of the founders of the field, Muzafer Sherif. He maintained that “Statistics was a prophylactic for ignorance”. In this he was, I think quite right, it often allows its practitioners to avoid having to fully define logical connections where they only need to point to p values to impress their readers.

August 25, 2017 11:56 am

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, those interested in “eco” matters will go into connected fields – environmental journalism, climate scientist etc. Naturally they start from a position confirming their beliefs.

Reply to  johnbuk
August 25, 2017 12:52 pm

Nah, it’s much worse than that. One goes off to university today and is literally drowned in prog-marxist, or “neo-marxist postmodernist” to be exact, propaganda. And the social punishment for nonconformance is severe. This now continues on into the corporate world as well. They are using all levers of social pressure to brainwash people in the guise of education.
Just imagine how that all would be accelerating if Cankles was in office.And no, I didn’t vote for Trump, I stayed home and practiced my marksmanship…

August 25, 2017 3:15 pm

“I saw that most men only care for science so far as they get a living by it and that they worship even error when it affords them a subsistence”
von Goethe

August 25, 2017 3:25 pm

The essence of science is the ability to predict, and the IPCC and its minions have a perfectly negative predictive track record – NONE of their scary predictions have materialized. That means that the IPCC has NEGATIVE scientific credibility, and nobody should believe anything they or their minions say.
I have two engineering degrees in earth sciences and have studied this subject since 1985, and I have found NO evidence of dangerous humanmade global warming, and ample evidence that it does NOT exist.

Gary Pearse
August 25, 2017 4:05 pm

John, a worse shortcoming of climate journalists and global warming consensus scientists, is the refusal (inability?) to argue the CERTAINTY of global warming science. No one can offer data that, so far, shows convincing evidence that dangerous global warming is happening. They only tell us it lies just ahead and they keep having to move the goal posts or ‘correct’ the uncooperative observations when nothing happens, or the temperature starts to drop, sealevel stubbornly inches along as it has for centuries and nothing special is happening with drought, storm or flood frequencies. They recite the connection of rising CO2 and temperature and won’t entertain criticism that it has been warmer with less CO2 in the past. Indeed they try to control both the narrative and the acceptable areas a critic is permitted to query.
I’d be happy to hear exactly what is convincing these proponents given even substantial error bars. When they can only insult and rail at you, why am I not justified in thinking they haven’t got game.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
August 26, 2017 1:28 am

Journalists, economists and climate scientists come out of the same pool. They try to explain what has happened but are useless at predicting the future.
As an aside, what caused the 1900 Galveston hurricane which had wind speed of 145 mph and caused 6000 – 12000 deaths? It can’t have been buffalo methane as they had been shot out by then!?!

August 26, 2017 5:38 am

“What happened to journalism?”
It was taken over by the Alt-Write.

Tom Anderson
August 26, 2017 1:18 pm

Here is “Lawson’s Siddartha Principle” of selecting science news, an excepted comment made two years ago by Nigel Lawson’s son Dominic, a journalist —
My argument [regarding science news] is that, since we would not be reading about a study in which these associations [e.g., cats causing cancer] had not been found, we should take no notice of these [published] claims.
Why my cynicism? There has been a lot of public discussion of potential biases in the published scientific literature – see for example, commentaries in The Economist and Forbes magazine. The general idea is that by the time research has been selected to be submitted, and then selected for publication, there is a good chance the results are false positives.
The point of this [comment] is to argue that such selection bias is as nothing compared to the hurdles overcome by stories that are not only published, but publicised. For a study to be publicised, it must have
• Been considered worthwhile to write up and submit to a journal or other outlet
• Have been accepted for publication by the referees and editors
• Been considered ‘newsworthy’ enough to deserve a press release
• Been sexy enough to attract a journalist’s interest
• Got past an editor of a newspaper or newsroom.
Anything that gets through all these hurdles stands a huge chance of being a freak finding. In fact, if the coverage is on the radio, I recommend sticking your fingers in your ears and loudly saying ‘la-la-la’ to yourself.
The crucial idea is that since there is an unknown amount of evidence that I am not hearing about and that would contradict this story, there is no point in paying attention to whatever it is claiming.
I have been struggling to find a suitable name for this heuristic, perhaps with some literary or classical allusion to someone who was misled by only being told selected items of information. Perhaps the ‘Siddhartha’ heuristic? Siddhārtha Gautama was a prince who was only told good news, and protected from seeing suffering and death. But he finally realised that he was not seeing the world as it really was, and so he left his palace to first take on the life as a wandering ascetic, and eventually to become the Buddha.

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