Goodbye Walter Cronkite, Hello PBS

Compiled by Mark Kneubuhl –

(September 18, 2012) During the mid to late 20th Century millions of American families sat down every evening to get their news from the likes of Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw. Back then the news was the simple reporting of events, without conjecture, omission or opinion. The latter came later in the program under the clearly specified heading of “editorial.”

Today we have “hybrid” news programs such as Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left: Both guilty of accentuation facts and stories that promote their political views while under-reporting events that may be harmful to their cause.

The News Hours, a PBS production, has always been a breath of fresh air in today’s confused media circus, strictly adhering to the journalism standards of Cronkite, et al.

PBS is funded by taxpayer dollars and contributions from “Viewers Like You” and large corporate and non-profit organizations.

But recently, it appears that someone got to them. The following is a story from,

Last night, PBS NewsHour turned to meteorologist and climate change contrarian Anthony Watts to “counterbalance” the mainstream scientific opinions presented by the program. This false balance is a disservice to PBS’ viewers, made worse by the program’s failure to explain Watts’ connection to theHeartland Institute, an organization that receives funding from some corporations with a financial interest in confusing the public on climate science.

While PBS mentioned that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that manmade global warming is occurring, it did not reflect this consensus by giving significant airtime to Watts’ contrarian views. The segment presented Watts as the counterbalance to scientists that believe in manmade global warming — every time a statement that reflects the scientific consensus was aired, in came Watts to cast doubt in viewers’ minds. As 66 percent of Americans incorrectly think that “there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening,” news organizations need to be careful not to contribute to this confusion.

The segment focused on the findings of physicist Richard Muller, who was previously skeptical of climate science, and decided to embark on a study to re-examine the data. Muller’s work was partially funded by the Koch Brothers, who fund climate contrarian groups like the Heartland Institute, and he collaborated with Watts to address his concerns about the reliability of the temperature record. Watts stated at the time, “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.” But after Muller reconfirmed the surface temperature record that has been constructed by several scientific groups and is consistent with satellite temperature records, Watts continued to dispute it. Yet in the full interview with Watts that PBSposted online, reporter Spencer Michels did not challenge Watts once, instead asking questions like, “What’s the thing that bothers you the most about people who say there’s lots of global warming?”

In the online report, Michels revealed that he got in contact with Watts through the Heartland Institute — which he failed to mention on-air. Segments like this one on PBS are the very goal of groups like the Heartland Institute, as the New York Times‘ Andrew Revkin explained:

The norm of journalistic balance has been exploited by opponents of emissions curbs. Starting in the late 1990s, big companies whose profits were tied to fossil fuels recognized they could use this journalistic practice to amplify the inherent uncertainties in climate projections and thus potentially delay cuts in emissions from burning those fuels.

Full Story from Media Matters


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Posted by at September 18, 2012
Filed in category: Environment, Politics, Society, and tagged with: ,

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