Climatespin has an excellent overview of a "minor journalism scandal" brewing over the revelation, by a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, that Chicago Sun-Times business editor Dan Miller has been actively promoting a press package sent around by the Exxon-funded, warming-denialist Heartland Institute (his former employer) encouraging journalists to "keep an open mind" on the subject. NRDC's Jon Coifman argues that this is something especially significant, and puts it in the context of the current political and legal climate:
All this is particularly significant given where we are now in the global warming conversation. The Supreme Court ruled this spring that EPA can no longer ignore the problem. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court threw out the administration’s proposed fuel economy rules for light trucks because they did not take into account global warming impacts. At least a dozen states are beginning to regulate CO2 emissions. There are several bipartisan bills now moving through Congress to do the same thing at the federal level, and a growing list of major companies are now calling on Washington to get moving on the question.
In other words, this is no backwater that Miller waded into. In doing so, he not only crossed the line…he seems to have ignored it entirely.
We'd take Coifman's point a bit further-- this is not only a big deal, but it ought to serve as an object lesson for all journalists writing about global warming to get their facts straight and truly call it down the middle. Warming Law has made something of a sport of noting the many ways in which industry-based actors and their allies engage in media spin that ranges from distorting the law to just plain making it up-- in fact, we've just archived a bevvy of posts dealing with that topic.
All too often, this spin is reported on verbatim, with reporters failing to correct the record or even offer a contrasting view. Even as the legal and regulatory landscape changes and rejects this kind of hyperbole, the press continues to fall victim to pressure to "report both sides" in a way more befitting a court reporter than hard journalism.
And thus, those who would distort the challenges we face and the solutions to them continue to offer up arguments that are appealing on the surface but factually weak-- not because they don't realize that the ground is shifting away from them, but because they see that they can get away with it and slow things down a bit.