Last week was a biggie in the media world: Fox News turned ten years old, Katie fell into third place, Meredith went down in the ratings, and oh yeah, Mark Foley (who I believe is still a Republican even after Fox News had something different to say on the matter) bumped Bob Woodward's book back to the food section. With this wide range of topics, my first blog entry should have been easy. I sat down to write yet another article on Mark Foley until something struck me that received little press.
On October 3rd, I finally stumbled upon a story that seemed to be obtaining no attention. Oklahoma Republican Senator and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe, had been on CNN's American Morning to debate Miles O'Brien on the truth about global warming (video here). While both of the men treaded lightly around the scientific facts, the majority on the Committee released a statement that lead with: "CNN Anchor Cited Fictional Hollywood Global Warming Movie, The Day After Tomorrow, to Defend His Science Reporting." Intrigued, I watched the entire interview listening for the movie reference. I almost missed it. Although Mr. O'Brien said, "This is The Day After Tomorrow scenario" it was not his main point, by any means. His quick reference to the movie was used as an example, not evidence. I re-read the press release, because it made O'Brien's comment seem as though his entire argument was based on a movie, an obvious distortion of reality.
This is not the first time Inhofe has gone after a first-rate journalist. After all, it was Tom Brokaw's global warming documentary which came under fire from the same majority on the Environment and Public Works Committee for a "lack of objectivity and balance" (read full press release). The statement said, "Unfortunately, viewers should not expect a scientifically balanced view of the climate from the former NBC newsman." Well, considering Mr. Brokaw lacked "objectivity," I needed to see what Fox News had to say on this matter. Fox presented a documentary, "The Heat Is On: The Cast of Global Warming," which was praised by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for showing the "devastating impacts that global warming is already having on our planet." He continued on his Huffington Post blog entry, "The Fox News team did a superb job exploring the science. This film should be seen by everyone."
Wait. So CNN, Fox News and the Discovery Channel (backed by NBC News Productions and the BBC) all presented documentaries stating global warming exists. Thus, Inhofe decided that there was only one place to go: blame the mainstream media. Putting all of his PR energy into this strategy, he accused the media of trying to scare the public. He told O'Brien: "The American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media." Is bringing an issue to the fore and using respected scientific research to examine it fear-mongering, or sane behavior of a rational society and a press trying to shine light on one of the most important issues of our lifetime? Since only a small group of politicians, such as Al Gore, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R, NY-24), and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are publicly sharing their alarm over the issue, we should only hope the mainstream media pays as much, if not more, attention to global warming. In an e-mail conversation with Congressman Boehlert's Communications Director Sam Marchio, I was told: "Bottom line - global warming is real, and Boehlert is working to craft legislative solutions to the problem."
Each time the media tries to bring up a story on global warming, reporters are tripped up by the very basics of journalism: quoting both sides. I spoke with Peter Cannavo, a Hamilton College government professor known for his outspoken stance regarding environmental issues. He contends that the press has largely been trapped by their emphasis on objectivity. Cannavo explains that the media has "long played into the hands of a fringe group of global warming skeptics because journalistic standards of objectivity meant presenting both sides of the issue even when the skeptics had much less scientific credibility." (Recommended article on this topic: Blinded by Science.) Thus, it seems that if any air time is devoted to global warming, scientists must combat fringe scientists and fringe scientists go on television and blame the media. Point...er...counter-point?
Finally, the cherry on top comes this week from Newsweek. Around the world (Europe, Asia and Latin America), Newsweek's cover story was "Global Warming's First Victim." Newsweek's American addition's front page story is: "Off Message," in regards to the Foley scandal. In America, sex won over the environment yet again and there is no mention in the entire American version of Newsweek about global warming.
So while the news can distract America with talk about Mark Foley and cooking with Bob Woodward, we need to praise environmental free speech regarding facts about global warming (see Salon.com's Climate-Controlled White House). Basically, what I am trying to say is that we need to be slightly less worried about Suri Cruise and be more worried about the future of the earth. I hope as time goes on that the news media continues to discuss and debate global warming. They need to scare us — we need to wake up.