Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Update: Malaria-climate link de-bunked: Auntie provides a "balanced" report

Update 28/5/2010: ABC responds-see comment HERE and below.

Update 27/5/2010:  Authors of the Nature paper debunking the link between climate change and increased Malaria incidence provide commentary on New York Times Dot Earth blog "On the whole, the academic publications about climate and malaria are a perfect example of hype. Peer reviewed publications on warming and malaraia [sic] have almost universally argued that warming will increase the burden and extend future range of malaria."

COMMENT: ABC Science takes our advice and finally gets around to providing some coverage of week old revelations that future incidence of Malaria will not be as severe as suggested by alarming IPCC reports. 
Note the "balanced" reporting in this piece titled 'Climate change impact on malaria questionedthat actually provides readers with an indication there are dissenting views. However ABC's reporter Dani Cooper can only muster 236 words to cover the good news about Malaria as published in a peer reviewed journal, then gives almost 300 (298) to cover un-peer reviewed comments from a member of the team (Tony McMichael)  that got it all so wrong! That's balance for ya. 
Roger Pielke Jnr's comments on McMichael's work on Malaria makes for interesting reading, strangely not covered by Dani Cooper: "It is not science. It might charitably be called educated guesswork or less charitably by a few other terms." Next time ABC strives for "balance" perhaps they'' find someone who's opinions don't amount to "educated guesswork".

Pity that pro-alarmist climate stories are not given the same treatment. For example where are the dissenting voices for these stories?
The Mammoth poop scoop
Recent Climate Institute report
Warmer planet to stress humans: study
Climate works report
Sea ice loss key to Arctic warming, study

ABC reply received 28/5/2010:
Thank you for your email regarding the ABC Science story 'Climate change impact on malaria questioned'.
Your concerns about this story have been investigated by Audience & Consumer Affairs. The story has been assessed against the applicable editorial standard, section 5.2.2(e) of the ABC's Editorial Policies (, which states as follows.
"Be balanced. 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."
The story reported on Professor Tony McMichael's criticisms of the recent Nature study 'Climate change and the global malaria recession'. In addition to the providing the views of Professor McMichael, the story summarised the study's findings and included the views of two of its authors, Dr Pete Gething and Dr Simon Hay.
While your references to the number of words in the story are noted, it is important to recognise that the editorial standard for balance does not require that an equal number of words be devoted to the views of each side in written stories. Instead, if possible, journalists are required to present the principal relevant views on matters of importance. In this case, the story presented the views of the authors of the study as well as the different views of a prominent Australian expert.
On review, Audience & Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the story adhered to section 5.2.2(e) of the Editorial Policies. Nonetheless, please be assured that your comments have been noted and conveyed to relevant staff in ABC Innovation.
I note your reference to a 2009 post on the blog 'Prometheus'. Audience & Consumer Affairs does not believe that criticism of Professor McMichael in a blog should preclude ABC journalists from reporting his expert views.
I also note your query regarding balance in a several recent ABC Science, ABC Environment and ABC News articles. Should have specific concerns about the adherence of one or more of these articles with the ABC's editorial standards, please outline them in further detail and we will be happy to consider them.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

Yours sincerely
ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs

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