Media’s Weird Ethics: Pretending to Be Someone Else Is Worse Than Facilitating Global Catastrophe

There’s a popular verb in headlines about climate researcher Peter Gleick’s admission that he used trickery to get damning documents out of the climate change-denialist group the Heartland Institute: “Activist Says He Lied to Obtain Climate Papers” (New York Times, 2/21/12); “Scientist Peter Gleick Admits He Lied to Get Climate Documents” (L.A. Times, 2/21/12); “Climate Researcher Says He Lied to Obtain Heartland Documents” (WashingtonPost.com, 2/21/12). What you wouldn’t gather from all these pants-on-fire condemnations is that there is a long and honorable tradition, from Nellie Bly feigning madness to expose mistreatment of the mentally ill to the Chicago Sun-Times‘ Mirage […]


NYT Radiation Reassurance: Ground Zero Deja Vu

The New York Times‘ reassuring reporting on the radioactive plume drifting across the U.S. continues the paper’s troubling tradition of parroting comforting words from officials in the midst of modern-day environmental crises–like the environmental fallout post-9/11. Let’s compare headlines: “Radiation Over U.S. Is Harmless, Officials Say” (3/22/11) “Workers and Residents Are Safe, Officials Say” (11/2/01) As I have documented (Extra!, 11-12/06), in the months and years following the September 11 attacks, the Times ignored studies and voices that cast strong doubt on official proclamations that the air and dust near Ground Zero were not a serious hazard. Andrew Revkin, the […]


NYT ‘Bent Over Backwards’ to Deny Ground Zero Health Risks It Now Reports

As yet another study is released documenting the damaging health effects of breathing in toxic Ground Zero dust, it’s good to see corporate media outlets taking it seriously. (Most media outlets, anyway–the New York Post continues to give a platform to deniers.) It’s worth remembering, though–since they won’t remind you–that for many months after 9/11, some outlets–the New York Times in particular–downplayed the fallout and mustered shockingly little journalistic skepticism of government reassurances about safety. The attitude of Andrew Revkin, the Times‘ environmental reporter at the time, says it all. As I wrote in 2006: The Times‘ Revkin told American […]


Calling Science ‘the Left’ Is Not Advocating for Science

New York Times‘ climate change reporter Andrew Revkin is taking a buyout from his employer after a tough year, the Columbia Journalism Review‘s website (12/14/09) reports. Revkin, whom CJR‘s Christine Russell describes as “one of the most influential and respected reporters on the environment,” says that 2009 “has been the hardest year Iâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ve experienced on this beat”–in part because Revkin has increasingly found himself–and his paperâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s coverage–the target of critics on both the right and the left, particularly in the often vitriolic blogosphere. He described himself as “an advocate for scientific reality,” not for either side of the debate. “The […]


Illegally Obtained Info Is a Big Scoop–or a Non-Story

The New York Times‘ reporter on the climate beat, Andrew Revkin, had a front-page story this weekend (11/20/09) detailing the contents of climate scientists’ private emails discussing global warming. Predictably, the emails are being taken out of context by climate change deniers–but more interesting to me is the fact that the focus is on the content of the emails, not on the fact that they were illegally obtained. That’s not the way corporate media handled the illegally taped cell phone call between Newt Gingrich, John Boehner and other Republican congressmembers in which Gingrich violated the terms of a ethics sanction […]


NYT Slams Gore for Relying on NYT

Think Progress blogger Matthew Yglesias (2/25/09) hits the Washington Post for “standing behind the claim that up is down if George Will says that is”–and then spreads some of the blame around: Meanwhile, one of the Post‘s main competitors in the world of papers with potential to attract a national audience is the New York Times. So faced with a humiliating abrogation of basic responsibilities by its competitor, does the Times take the opportunity to pour some salt in the wounds? No! Instead, out comes Andrew Revkin with a false-equivalence article painting Will with the same brush as Al Gore. […]