Dangerous minimization of climate news events

We depend on news media to pass along important information about global warming.  Like the real news event of a breach in the huge wall of ice in the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

It is not very often that we see a discrete event that’s clearly due to global warming.  Melting ice is usually slow and uninteresting.  But these days we have glaciers moving at many feet per day - where my childhood lessons said they moved at inches per year.

It was disappointing to see the MSNBC reporter mess up a simple news story of an ice event with comments from a notorious political ideologue funded by the coal industry.

It could have been a traffic accident, a fire, an earthquake or even a tsunami.  Just give us the important news please:   In Antarctica a giant wall of ice broke and released vast areas of the Wilkins ice shelf to further destruction.

But why would NBC reporter Tracy Potts decide to bring in the most contentious climate denial spokesperson Patrick Michaels to comment on this event?  See the story for yourself

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Reporter Potts labeled him a climatologist and researcher - but he works as a spokesperson for the Libertarian CATO Institute.  Columnist George Monbiot numbered him as 8th in the ten worst climate warming deniers.

I know reporters are over-worked and pressured by assignment editors, but work like this should not be allowed to stand.   MSNBC editors are at fault here.

The stakes are too much, too serious to even consider comments from such a science shill as Patrick Michaels who is heavily funded by the coal industry.  For her complicity, reporter Tracy Potts risks being labeled a PR tool; if she is unaware, then she risks being called inept.   Perhaps this will be an education.

Journalists have some terrific resources available.  When an expert comment is required, they can first check the excellent List of Global Warming and Climate Change Experts for Media.

Before interviewing that expert, the professional journalist can find some background briefings on the subject from their own professional organization: The Society of Environmental Journalists.   They offer introductory essays, science briefings, as well as overviews of government, agency and organizations.  Most interesting is they also discuss skeptics and contrarians - including Patrick Michaels with a description saying how he has changed from “denying human-induced greenhouse warming to downplaying its importance.”   Gosh, when we next do a story asking whether global warming is important, we shall be sure to call on Michaels for a comment.   But we should pass on asking him about science.

MSNBC and all (remaining) news organizations would do well to keep their reporters briefed and well connected to worthwhile sources.  I hope that Tracy Potts is a member of a professional organization.  My local NBC affiliate KING-TV chose to air that story unedited - and so local news editors could do better handling these stories too

Meanwhile, individuals will continue to watch big news media with a critical eye, continuing to search for better sources for news.

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