Sunday, January 31, 2010

Diagnosing the Grand Forks Herald

Living around Grand Forks, North Dakota, the big local newspaper is the Grand Forks Herald. Overall I would say that what it prints about climate change is not nearly as bad as it could be. In North Dakota where the fossil fuel industry is so big, it may not be surprising if its coverage slanted strongly toward being hostile to the science. Instead of being that bad, it is the more mundane level of bad dominated by false equivalency.

Actual news coverage is light, but that is fully consistent with what one could find in terms of general news coverage almost anyway in the US. The Op-Ed section with columns and letters is continuing stream of "he said-he said". Having followed the portrayal of climate change in general media more closely for only a couple years and not poring over every Herald editorial I do not have a clear view of what "the Herald" stance on climate change is. My impression is that they understand the science clearly shows human activities are adversely affecting climate but not to the point to keep from selling the supposed controversy.

Regularly there are op-ed writings show understanding of the issue - most basically that greenhouse gas emissions are a threat to impose immense human, financial, and environmental costs. That can be found occasionally from syndicated columnists like Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman, columns from more local organizations, and some letters to the editor. The problem is that the Herald is compelled for whatever reason to also publish climate science denial from the regularly-debunked George Will and in letters to the editor. The most absurd letter I have seen was from about a month ago and pimped a crank website attributing climate change somehow to the moon - sorry I do not recall the details better, but with the head-shaking and palm-forehead contact immediately after reading it the memory slips. I would like to believe that was part of a campaign to undermine the ridiculous by highlighting it, though I doubt that, plus even if that was the case I am not sure it would work that way.

What I consider something of a positive is that the do-nothing op-eds like from business/industry types are not blatantly pushing denial like that there is no warming or that human activities are not affecting climate. Generally, there are just assertions that doing anything about greenhouse gas emissions would be too costly so we should not. That certainly is not good, and it is not like those writings are explicitly recognizing the threat of climate change. But again I consider it better than it could be, as long as you grant that ignoring human-driven climate change is better than denying it, which I will grant is not clear cut.

Future posts will elaborate on the Grand Forks Herald and climate when addressing particular writings. In fact, the next post will take on a column from today's paper of exactly the sort described above.

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