The Ethical Vacuum of Flat Earth Journalism

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The Salem Oregon Statesman Journal ran an opinion piece today that declared, conclusively: “Global-Warming Fears Pointless.”

The article was a prescription for inaction, a recommendation that we should all throw our hands up in despair over our inability to understand or affect climate change.

It was also irresponsible journalism of the worst sort.

The writer, “a forestry consultant with 36 years’ experience as a forester” posted exactly zero credentials as a climate analyst and made no effort to back up his fervent but vacuous “scientific” conclusion. No worries: it’s his right to say what he thinks, no matter how poorly founded that opinion.

But the editor who chose to run the piece has a responsibility to exercise a little judgment about the accuracy and reliability of the content he puts in the paper. Presumably, he or she wouldn’t run a story suggesting that his boss had been arrested for drunk driving without first checking the facts. Presumably, the Statesman Journal no longer carries reports of the Flat Earth Society as fact. Yet, the paper clearly feels it is acceptable to post the ungrounded blather of a thoroughly uninformed reader without, for example, checking that content with a single reputable source.

The problem, here, is that people assume newspaper proprietors care about their content. The bigger problem, apparently, is that the editors of the Statesman Journal clearly don’t.

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