Thursday, March 22, 2007

Truth, Idiots, and American Journalism

"Rin Tin Tin was a movie star," Gore responded. "I just have a slide show."
-- San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 2007
"It's possible to be a Republican and not be an idiot."
-- Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-Maryland)
Al Gore made a highly unusual appearance before two congressional committees in one day, yesterday, to urge action on global warming. On the whole, national press coverage of the event was just as bad as -- or worse than -- we have come to expect.

Almost every reporter fell for the theater instead of the facts. Little wonder that Americans are said to be among the least well informed people in the world when it comes to the global environmental crisis.

The worst coverage, of course, comes from Fox News, via Drudge. But Fox and Drudge aren't really part of journalism. They're propagandists in the Goebbels tradition. So they don't count.

The Washington Post shoved news of Gore's appearance onto page 4. Only at WaPo would that be considered an improvement over putting it on A-14, the dungeon where Walter Pincus's penetrating assessments of George W. Bush's incompetent and self-destructive war policies have been consigned since 2002 when he didn't jump aboard the war whoop wagon.

At least the Times gave Gore's warning of a "planetary emergency" front page coverage.
"This is not a normal time. We are facing a planetary emergency," Gore said in the afternoon Senate hearing. "I'm fully aware that that phrase sounds shrill to many people's ears. But it is accurate."
Even there, however, you will look long, hard, and fruitlessly for any mention of the ten point program Gore proposed for immediate action by Congress. But plenty of journalistic ink is spilled over the tit-for-tat between Gore and cynical fantacists like Joe Barton (R-Texas) and James Inhofe (R-OK).

It's as if all these reporters think they're sports jockeys sent to cover the hearings like an NCAA basketball game rather than a deadly serious call for Congress to save Planet Earth.

One exception is John Donnelly's superb report in the Boston Globe. Sure, he gives a little ringside entertainment --
Gore, who arrived along with his wife, Tipper, in a new hybrid sports utility vehicle, faced strong rebukes from some Republicans who doubt that global warming has become a crisis.
And he deftly word-paints the scene --
Sitting next to 12 cardboard boxes filled with petitions and postcards from 516,000 people asking Congress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and craning his neck to see over a sea of photographers and cameramen, Gore often sounded like a university professor giving a science lecture that delved into details of the composition of greenhouse gases.
But, unlike nearly everyone else, Donnelly puts it all in an appropriate context with just two neatly written paragraphs --
Gore, 58, who won the popular vote for president in 2000 but lost the disputed electoral tally to President Bush, appeared soon after an Academy Awards appearance in which his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," won two Oscars, and at a time when many Democrats are clamoring for him to run for the presidency in 2008. Gore has said repeatedly he has no plans to run.
* * *
The Bush administration opposes any mandatory measure to limit carbon dioxide emissions, saying it would greatly harm the economy and put companies at a competitive disadvantage. Instead, it favors voluntary emission reductions, increasing the production of ethanol as an alternative fuel, and gradually raising fuel-economy standards on vehicles.
And then includes the actual kernel of Gore's remarks to Congress:
Gore's 10-point plan included a carbon tax and freeze on carbon dioxide emissions. He also said the United States must be part of a global treaty to dramatically reduce worldwide emissions; place a moratorium on US coal-fired power plants that cannot capture and sequester emissions in the future; build an "electranet" that allows people to create power from the sun, wind, or other sources and then sell the electricity to the grid; ban incandescent light bulbs; and rapidly increase fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.
Otherwise, for fact reporting on the actual content of Gore's ten point proposal, it looks like you'll have to turn away from the mainstream media and go to resources like David Robert's live-blogging at Gristmill. A bit amateurish? Perhaps. But he gets the facts right, which is more than you can say for the Post, which is now running this correction:
Correction to This Article
Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that former Sen. John Edwards ran for vice president on the 2000 ticket with former Vice President Al Gore. Edwards ran on the 2004 ticket with Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.). This version of the story has been corrected.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! As Brad Delong asks so often,Why, oh why, can't we have a better press?

1 comment:

Bryan said...

Why do all of these clowns go into "creative writing" mode?

You want the facts. All they have to do is pay attention and write a synopsis of what they heard. It's like taking a reading comprehension test.

It's almost as if they are all trying out for the op-ed page.