Even Journalism Conference Biased on Global Warming

So much for that Code of Ethics promoted by the Society of Professional Journalists. The group undermined its own code by holding an entirely eco-friendly session on climate change.Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told a group at the 2007 Washington, D.C., conference on October 4 one of the things that made the SPJ great is its Code of Ethics. But the code didn't come into play during the hour-long October 5 program at the convention entitled "Climate Change Affects Every Beat." The event had three panelists: Larry Evans, managing editor of Daily Environmental Report; Judi Greenwald, director of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Climate Change; and Michelle Moore, vice president for policy and public affairs at the U.S. Green Building Council. "We need help from journalists to explain to the public what is at stake and how we are going to be able to move forward," Greenwald said. "And I guess finally is to where I could use some help is on cap and trade because cap and trade is what we're talking about doing as the centerpiece ... Unless the public really understands how it works and why we need it, we're going to be in trouble, so I could use some help from people who do communication with normal people for a living to explain this and explain why this is the way forward."However, when the panel was confronted with the question of maintaining the balance between reporting the news and playing the role of advocacy journalist, Greenwald offered the standard talking points. "I think the facts are actually quite compelling," Greenwald said. "We advocate one thing, but a lot of what we do is just report the facts ... A lot of scientists worked on that question [if global warming was just natural] and did very sophisticated analysis that are sort of hard to explain because a lot of it is about pattern analysis and if you look at the pattern of global warming and try to find some sort of explanation, the only explanation that actually works for it is the greenhouse gases."SPJ's Code of Ethics, already scarce in the media's climate coverage, includes among its stated principles:

  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting.
  • Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
  • Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.

The Code was published on page 24 of the SPJ program guide.

Dan Gainor
Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and Vice President for Business and Culture for the Media Research Center