Selective Journalism

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The echo chamber is alive and well and currently bouncing Phil Jones’ bastardized quote all over the global media. Recap – Phil Jones speaks to the BBC about climate change. The Daily Mail selects part of his response, stripping it of its context and using that selection to argue that Prof. Jones is backtracking on the likelihood of global warming.

Then every half-wit, oil company shill and agenda-driven journalist in the world picks up the Mail’s manipulation and uses it as if it’s real.

Here is the ACTUAL exchange:

BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present, there has been no statstically-significant global warming”

Prof Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995-2009. This trend (0.12 per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods and much less likely for shorter periods.

And here’s how the accuracy-challenged press is using the quote:

“… in a weekend BBC interview, he (Jones) dropped a bombshell. He acknowledged there’s been no statistically significant warming since 1995.

“Hello? When other people say that, they’re called deniers.”

Phil Jones’ actual answer and the answer that is being trumpeted by the media are dramatically different. Jones, with patience and exactitude, described the condition that would justify the term “statistically significant” (95% certainty) and explained that – on an issue like climate – such certainty is not appropriately sought from short time spans. He went out of his way to ensure accuracy. The Mail, and it’s cheering section, seem to be going out of their way to obscure accuracy.

This is an outrage. It’s wreaks of shoddy trickery – backstopped with just enough conditional language to absolve the offending journalists of responsibility for straying from factual, fair and un-biased reporting. It reaches into the realm of intentional misinformation.

It would be fine if Prof. Jones had uttered his quote without a carefully considered context. It might even be fine if people like Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente understood what “statistically significant” means in this context. (She either missed that month in First Year Statistics – or she just doesn’t care.)

A five year old knows that anything taken out of context can be contrived to support a point – and this point is painfully, purposefully and unforgiveably contrived.

I’m not posting this to argue about the science; I’m here to point the finger at journalists and ask them at what point did they decide to check their conscience at the door. At what point, Ms. Wente, is it okay to ignore the responsibility to ensure that what you write accurately reflects what your subjects intended to say?

 

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