The Extras

Media Critics Dissect Science and Environmental Journalism

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“To offer a little bit of perspective from our 1,000-foot view of the good and the bad in the world of journalism today,” said moderator Curtis Brainard as he opened the media critics session at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference.

The group convened Saturday morning for the “Media Critics Dissect Science and Environmental Journalism” event.

Brainard, a science editor at The Observatory, moderated the event and introduced the three other panelists.

Back in 2006 he said climate change reporters did not know to what extent they should be reporting the story, which resulted in attacks on their work. Instantly, scientists began to correct the record.

“They were scratching an itch that was irritating the industry,” Brainard said.

“Media criticism matters,” he said. “Balance is biased and it continues to be an issue in the media today.”

Paul Raeburn

Bud Ward, co-founder of SEJ and editor of The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, said that balance is a pervasive concern.

“Journalism has changed a lot so the media extends to a number of sites,” Ward said. “Media is not narrowly defined.”

Ward focused on how media coverage focus has gone from how news is reported to the tools used to cover climate change.

Paul Raeburn, a blogger, touched on the topic of how some skeptics need to conduct research in order to not be skeptical anymore.

“Be very careful about case sensitive searches. My point was ruined by a small mistake, you lose your point if you do that,” he said. “Self examination is an important thing.”

Raeburn stated that the downside of media criticizing is when he criticizes the media he is criticizing all of us.

“The people you critique, won’t be shy,” he said.

“I don’t like to critique,” Pere Estupinya, a Spanish-language blogger, said. “I like to write my own stories.”

Even though he may not like to critique, he does realize that it is an important function. He likes to encourage Latin Americans to make a network that connects different dots from journalists.

“I like to find stories that are untold,” he said.

While each of the speakers uses criticism differently, Brainard said they are “complimentary rather than competitive.”

All of the panelists found the media critiquing has its ups and downs.

“It is easier to praise someone than critique their work,” said Ward.

Brainard agreed with Ward, stating that one has to try to find a balance because not everything they do is critical.

“The press also needs a defender at times,” Brainard said. “We need to highlight the exceptional work out there.”


More like this: Panel Discussions

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