Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ABC: as credible as Weekly World News?

Updated 18/3/2010-see outcome

ABC HEADLINE: "Climate scientists 'under cyber attack'" ABC news online 22/2/2010

ABC REPORTED: ABC reporter Thea Cowie provides a report about an opinion piece by author Clive Hamilton published on another part of the ABC website - The Drum. Hamilton's article alleges the existence of an orchestrated campaign of 'cyber bullying' on the part of "denialist organisations" aimed at driving climate scientists from public debate.

THE COMPLAINT:This complaint is about the report on ABC news and not about the opinion piece by Clive Hamilton on The Drum. The news article breaks ABC Editorial Policy and Code of practice on several grounds:

1. The report is blatant self promotion and fails the test for newsworthiness. While there appears to be nothing in the ABC Editorial Policy that prohibits or discourages self promotion (or is there?) it is clearly at odds with the ABC Code of Practice namely section 2.11 Program Promotions. Program Promotions should be scheduled so as to be consistent with the nature of surrounding content. If the ABC's intent was simply self promotion it has the means to advertise The Drum opinion site directly and not through manufacturing reports that masquerade as news. Can ABC please explain how this report constitutes news and not self promotion?

2. Balance. ABC editorial policy section 5.2.2 (e) states:  Balance will be sought but may not always be achieved within a single program or publication; it will be achieved as soon as reasonably practicable and in an appropriate manner. It is not essential to give all sides equal time. As far as possible, present principal relevant views on matters of importance.

No attempt was made on the part of the reporter to investigate if scientists sceptical of the dangers of anthropogenic Global Warming were on the receiving end similar 'cyber bullying' threats.

3. Be questioning. ABC editorial policy section 5.2.2 (f) states: Be questioning. Serve the public interest by investigating issues affecting society and individuals.

Reporter Thea Cowie fails to question the author of the opinion piece about alleged cyber bullying on his part.  For instance Clive Hamilton has previously linked scientists sceptical of the dangers of anthropogenic global warming with Holocaust  deniers (HERE), and accused anyone opposed to controlling carbon emissions of being murderers (HERE). 

Thea also missed an opportunity to examine how climate scientists have themselves possibly been guilty of cyber bullying by looking at the contents of alleged leaked emails from the Climate research unit at the University of East Anglia. These include statements such as these from climate scientists: 

From Ben Santer to Phil Jones: "Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I'll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted." http://eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=1045

From Phil Jones to Gavin Schmidt: "I assume you are both aware of this prat"  http://eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=1038

but more worrying perhaps this one:
From Phil Jones to Ray Bradley: "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.http://eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=154 

and this: 
From Phil Jones to Michael Mann: "I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow - even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !" http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=419

and this:
From Kevin Trenberth to Michael Mann: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate." http://eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=1048

The reporter was not serving the public interest in this case by conducting a more thorough investigation. Can Thea update her article, or perhaps provide a new article that examines these issues.

OUTCOME: Thank you for your email regarding the ABC News Online story Climate scientists ‘under cyber attack’.

Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC.  We have reviewed the broadcast, assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards and sought and considered material provided by ABC News. 

This article is not a program promotion and has no relevance to section 2.11 of the ABC Code of Practice.  The claim, by Clive Hamilton in his opinion article, that an organised cyber-bullying campaign is targeting Australian climate scientists was considered newsworthy, and was reported by ABC News.  It is common practice for news organisations to report newsworthy comments made by prominent citizens in other publications.  Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the report was based on news values and is in keeping with section 5.2.2(d) of the ABC Editorial Policies.

The reporter achieved balance through the publication of the ABC News online article Cyber-bullies on both sides of climate debate, on 25 February.  Section 5.2.2(e) of the ABC Editorial Policies state that balance will be sought but may not always be achieved within a single program or publication; it will be achieved as soon as reasonably practicable and in an appropriate manner.  I have attached a link to that report, for your reference:

Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that ABC News online’s coverage of this issue was suitably questioning and in keeping with section 5.2.2(f) of the Editorial Policies.

The ABC Editorial Policies are available online at the attached link; http://abc.net.au/corp/pubs/edpols.htm

Please be assured that your comments have been duly noted.

COMMENT: Unsubstantiated rumour and innuendo are a feature of supermarket tabloids such as the Weekly World News that run stories with headlines such as "Deadly Spiders invade Sydney" and "Blobfish going extinct" and "Yetis on East Coast".

Based on this article by Thea Cowie can we expect similar headlines and content to grace future ABC news reports? Don't believe us then ask yourself where you'd be more likely to find the following headline WWN or the ABC?: "Lucky coin leads man to pot of gold" (Hint click the link to find out).

Update Thea Cowie's latest piece for ABC or is that WWN? "Millionaire' lucky coin just one factor: feng shui expert" As Charlie Brown was fond of saying "Good grief!"

This article has been short listed for the ABC NEWS WATCH annual Shonky Awards.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep to the topic. Abusive comments and bad language are simply not tolerated. Note that your comment may take a little while to appear.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.