Citizen Kane

I think it’s pretty obvious who the winner will be this year.  I have tried to be responsive to those who felt last year’s Citizen Kane award didn’t give enough weighting to the unprincipled bad actors, as opposed to those who are merely doing a bad job.  As always, though, I welcome your thoughts on the “winners” and any omissions.

The award is named after Citizen Kane’s “Declaration of Principles,” which publisher Charles Foster Kane idealistically enunciated early on in the film classic, but later on “Without reading it, Kane tears it up, throws it into the wastebasket at his side.”

I agree with Al Gore “Overall the media’s coverage of climate issues has been atrocious.”  In that sense, the entire media deserves a dishonorable mention for its generally poor coverage of climate science, politics, and economics this year:

Skipping the musical number I had prepared for the awards ceremony, let’s dive straight into the top ten list:

10.  The Boston Globe — For one of the worst news articles ever published on global warming.  It showcases the four horsemen of awful climate journalism:  Dreadful headline (“A cooling trend”), grotesque imbalance, a total lack of understanding or even interest in climate science, and a wholly unsubstantiated, near-libelous slur against a leading scientist:

9.  The Atlantic’s Clive Crook — He made up stuff and printed it (without fact-checking) for the sole purpose of smearing Michael Mann (see “The Atlantic’s Clive Crook needs to retract his libelous misinformation and apologize to Michael Mann“).  And he did it again even after he and the editors were informed of the libelous errors in the first piece (see “Atlantic shocker: Senior editor Clive Crook fabricates another quote to smear Michael Mann“).  When he ultimately was forced by his editors to concede I was right, Crooked Timber described Crook’s response:

I don’t know exactly why Crook climbed down in this abject fashion. To use his own term, these posts are “mealy-mouthed apologies,” albeit “mealy-mouthed apologies” of the kind that clearly had some considerable difficulty making it past the craw….

But his memory seems to be malfunctioning. It wasn’t the climate scientists who got their arses handed back to them on a plate. It was Clive Crook. I trust he’ll be grateful for the reminder.

In fact, while Crook conceded, “Joe Romm’s criticism that I misquoted the Penn State report is correct” and “Joe Romm’s criticism that the phrase “the trick to hide the decline” does not appear in the Climategate emails is correct,” he never apologized to Mann.

Worse, his “correction” merely put in an ellipsis — “trick…to hide the decline” — a phrase promoted by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli  that many, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, had explained was libelously misleading.

8.  Newsweek — The magazine continues to disappoint, appearing for the second straight year thanks to a few truly dreadful articles:

7.  George Will and the editors of the Washington Post — They have lost their top spot, mainly because Will, for whatever reason, isn’t writing as much disinformation on climate.  But the paper’s coverage on climate and energy — and their new ‘5 Myths’ section — leave much to be desired:

6.  The New York Times — the so-called paper of record — has begun to improve its climate reporting (see Coastal studies experts: “For coastal management purposes, a [sea level] rise of 7 feet (2 meters) should be utilized for planning major infrastructure”).  But that just can’t overcome some of the worst climate journalism in American earlier in the year.  And they still run Andy Revkin, albeit as a blogger:

5.  BBC — The once-vaunted British media giant has perhaps had the biggest Kane-like fall from grace this year.  If I weren’t including those who have simply decided to intentionally spread disinformation, they might well have won the award out right this year:

4 & 3.  David Rose, Richard North, James Delingpole, The Daily Mail, Telegraph, and Sunday Times — I’m lumping the “journalists” into #4 and their shameless papers into #3.  British climate journalism has collapsed this year:

2.  WattsUpWithThat — Anthony Watts does more than any person in the blogosphere to spread anti-scientific disinformation.  Although he was a TV weatherman, he isn’t a ‘journalist’ — but then are any of those Brits in #4 above really journalists?  Watts certainly does more harm than each of them, and at least they don’t lecture others on journalism.  Watts spent most of the year twisting scientific data to persuade people that Arctic sea ice was going to recover sharply — and then he spent the couple of months absurdly asserting that he did no such thing (see Arctic Death Spiral 2010: Navy’s oceanographer tells Congress, “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower…in the last several thousand years” Disinformers get it very wrong AND see Tamino eviscerate their laughable November revisionism here).   Watts has, perhaps more than any other leading anti-science blogger, viciously smeared climate scientists and others.  On Memorial Day, for instance, Watts directly questioned the patriotism of both Tamino and Rabett (see “Peak readership for anti-science blogs?“) leading Tamino to write, “This just might be the most loathsome thing Watts has yet done with his blog.”  But it wasn’t.

And that brings us to the winner:

1.  Fox News — They spread disinformation on climate and every other subject to more people than any other media outlet in the country (see Howell Raines: “Why has our profession … helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?”).  Now we know that it is a matter of policy for them to dispute even the most unequivocal scientific facts (see  Leaked email reveals Fox News boss Bill Sammon ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science and here).  They will promote the words of anyone, no matter how heinous, to advance their anti-climate agenda (see “Fox News suckered by Bin Laden into repeating his disinformation and message of hatred.”  And they feature one of the most absurd disinformers on the planet nightly — see Video: Glenn Beck brings ExxonMobil-linked religious front group to tell Christians not to believe in “man-caused” climate change.

The net result is that they are regular viewers are the most misinformed people in the country:


Note:  As I indicated last year, you obviously can’t compare people who are actively trying to spread disinformation with people who are merely doing a poor job.  I am not comparing Clive Crook with David Rose, or the New York Times with Fox News.  That would be comparing apples and oranges or perhaps airplanes and oranges.  Individual rankings are based on an individual curve compared to where these outlets/journalists aspire.  It is precisely because the BBC and NYT aspire much higher than most everyone else, that their myriad failings — despite much outstanding coverage and an excellent editorial/opinion page — put them on the list.