Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Newsweek editor's pre-apology.

I read Newsweek editor Jon Meacham's "Editor's Desk" note in the issue of Newsweek with the great story on global warming deniers. I found this anecdote interesting:
In the issue of NEWSWEEK dated April 28, 1975—the cover that week, about the pending fall of Saigon, was called "The Last Battle" —the magazine ran what is probably the most-cited single-page story in our history. Headlined the cooling world, it explored worries about a new ice age. Global warming soon led scientists to put such concerns aside, but those who doubt that greenhouse gases are causing significant climate change have long pointed to the 1975 NEWSWEEK piece as an example of how wrong journalists and researchers can be. (If you type NEWSWEEK and global cooling into Google, you get 262,000 hits—not bad for a 33-year-old article.)

Meacham continues to misinterpret this history by saying scientists "put aside" cooling like it was some fad and now the same scientists are talking about warming. This was never more than a handful of scientists' speculations being blown up by the press, e.g. Newsweek. See realclimate for the definitive debunking of this media myth.

But I missed the significance of this odd paragraph in the same note:
We are not saying that it is time for all Americans to give up their cars and bike to work, or that Gore should be canonized or that the board of the Sierra Club should be given emergency powers to run the country.

Well of course you're not. Does a story about the denial industry really need this qualifier?

Luckily, the Daily Howler is long skilled at spotting this kind of journalistic weasel-ness:
But the real must-read in the current Newsweek is Jon Meacham’s weak-kneed “Editor’s Desk,” in which The Parson finds three hundred ways to apologize for running such a piece. Meacham is a genial person, but we’ve long been struck by his lack of spine, a problem which was always clear when he was doing more TV punditry. But this “Editor’s Desk” is an Instant Classic—a portrait of a multimillionaire press corps’ pusillanimity in the face of conservative power.

Sigh. Between the Democratic leadership and traditional media editors, I hope there's enough spines to go around.

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