Paper Uses Global Warming Activist’s Press Release as News Story
By: Warner Todd Huston
The Palm Beach Post was caught in a bit of deception by one of its readers over the weekend. At issue was another globaloney alarmist story the paper printed on July 25th, titled “This century hotter than last, group finds,” supposedly by Post writer Dara Kam. Unfortunately for the reputation of Dara Kam and that of the paper, this “article” was merely a rewording of the press release of an environmentalist group calling themselves, Environment Florida. An alert reader who wrote in calling them on it also exposed several other papers across the country that did the very same thing.
Naturally, the article by Kam was all worried about how the summers are getting hotter and informing the reader of new globaloney legislation pending in the Florida state house in Tallahassee. It all seemed rather like our intrepid writer had done a whole bunch of research for this attempt at writing a â€œscienceâ€ article.
But Post reader Gary Bokelmann wondered how this â€œarticleâ€ could be nearly a word for word rehash of a press release put out by the environmental group and still be claimed an honest news article? And not only did the Palm Beach Post merely rephrase a press release, so did several other papers, Bokelmann found.
“My curiosity was piqued when a friend pointed out a story titled, ‘Nevada Summer Getting Warmer,’ in The Reno Gazette Journal, which appeared on the same day, and which was surprisingly similar in its tone and content. A quick, casual search online then revealed another – this time from the Arkansas News Group, ‘Study: 2006 Temperatures in Arkansas Exceeded 30-Year Norm.’ Then there was another from Florida, ‘Global Warming Here, Group Says,’ in The Pensacola News Journal. Then the Madison, Wis., Capital Times jumped on board with ‘Average Temperature Higher Here Last Year.’”
Bokelmann wondered how all these papers could claim to be â€œreportingâ€ anything when they didnâ€™t reveal where their â€œfactsâ€ came from?
Mr. Bokelmann noted that some of the stories “refer to a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group called U.S. Public Interest Research Group. It is obvious that this is the group that was orchestrating the whole media blitz,” he said, “apparently by helping its various state affiliates to customize press releases for their local markets and then distributing them to local reporters, who ‘reported’ their claims uncritically.”
The Post, he said, apparently “talked to no one at all, outside of the group releasing the ‘study’.” He was “struck by one question when I read this story: All of these supposedly local studies used the period 1970-2000 as their base, and declared temperatures from that period to be ‘normal.’ The obvious question is why those years?”
Bokelmann had the perfect question to wrap up his observations.
Thus to his initial question Mr. Bokelmann added: “Were the editors of The Palm Beach Post simply unaware that they were being manipulated as part of a sophisticated national media blitz by an advocacy group – or were they willing participants in the campaign? Or is there another, alternative explanation for this flurry of nearly identical ‘local’ stories?”
In their answer to Mr. Bokelmann, the Post tries to squirm out of their failure to disclose the source of all the â€œfactsâ€ and â€œstatisticsâ€ that appear in Kamâ€™s story. Editor Paul Blythe tries to explain away their reasons, but one thing he never once addresses: Why is it that quotes do not appear in Kamâ€™s story except for two paragraphs when nearly every aspect of the story is a direct reprint of the statistics in the activistâ€™s press release?
Blithe gives his mae culpa at the end of their reply to reader Bokelmann with a limp and unsatisfactory plea. “Could we have done a better job? Yes. Will we do the same thing the next time? No. We’ll be more critical, both for this and any opposing point of view.”
We all know how lazy most “journalists” and their newspapers are. We see their lack of research, their poor prose and their opinion pieces so thinly disguised as news stories all too often. The good thing is, we are out here now to catch and expose their slovenly work. But, as often as we have caught them at this since the inception of the Internet, it makes one wonder how often in the past this sort of thing happened? And, one can’t help realizing that it must have been far, far more often than anyone ever realized.