Calgary Herald: where oily opinion trumps fact

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In continuing to run the “opinions” of the tainted University of Calgary Professor Barry Cooper, the Calgary Herald, newspaper of record in the Alberta oil capital, demonstrates a lack of concern for accountability, integrity and accuracy.

Prof. Cooper won national fame by setting up a University of Calgary slush fund through which oil companies could give money to climate change deniers without having to account for the donations or admit their association. When the scheme was discovered, the University shut it down, but that hasn’t stopped the Herald from continuing to employ Cooper as a columnist – and from presenting his work as if it is accurate and unsullied by bias.

In a recent example – a column that ultimately presents some interesting new research on CO2-munching microbes – Cooper makes the case for “clean” coal, saying, “Burning coal also produces a biologically necessary and highly beneficial gas, carbon dioxide, CO2.”

In the current circumstances, this is plain goofy. Dismissing the risks of CO2 so cavalierly is analogous to promoting the indiscriminate release of cyanide because it is “highly beneficial” in leaching gold from raw ore.

That said, I would defend the Herald’s right and responsibility to present Cooper’s views, if the paper made any effort to inform readers of the nature of the professor’s oil industry connections and of the efforts he has made to fool the public about those connections in the past.

On the contrary, however, this is a publication that will admit to a set of facts in court – saying, for example that Professor Cooper’s associate, Dr. Tim Ball “is viewed as a paid promoter of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist” – but leave on the printed record information that vastly overstates Dr. Ball’s credentials.

You are left with the impression that you can rely on the Herald to tell the truth “under oath,” but not necessarily to care about setting the record straight in its news or editorial pages.

If that’s the case, no worries. But readers deserve a disclaimer. 

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