Climate change and journalistic balance  SEP 24 2012

PBS ombudsman Michael Getler calls out NewsHour for "a faulty application of journalistic balance" in a recent segment on climate change.

Although global warming strikes me as one of those issues where there is no real balance and it is wrong to create an artificial or false equivalence, there is no harm and some possibility of benefit in inviting skeptics about the human contribution and other factors to speak, but in a setting in which the context of the vast majority of scientific evidence and speakers is also made clear.

What was stunning to me as I watched this program is that the NewsHour and Michels had picked Watts -- who is a meteorologist and commentator -- rather than a university-accredited scientist to provide "balance." I had never heard of Watts before this program and I'm sure most viewers don't, as part of their routines, read global warming blogs on either side of the issue.

I'm not being judgmental about Watts or anything he said. He undoubtedly is an effective spokesperson. But it seems to me that if you decide you are going to give airtime to the other side of this crucial and hot-button issue, you need to have a scientist.

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