The death of journalism and the irresistible rise of the blogosphere.
The IPCC has screwed up again. They published a claim last month in their renewables report saying that renewable technologies could supply 80% of world-wide energy needs by the mid-century. What they actually published was an executive summary of the report, not the report itself. That was published a full month later.
The summary or should I be more honest and call it the press release, was given to the journalists of the MSM (Main Stream Media) who promptly and dutifully cut and pasted it into their news streams.
When the report was published, a certain Mr. McIntyre went through it to determine the scientific basis of the 80% figure and was more than mildly surprised to find out it not only originated from Greenpeace but the original author of the piece, an employee of Greenpeace, had also been the same person who reviewed and edited the piece for the IPCC working party which produced the report. Conflict of interest doesn’t even begin to describe this situation.
Of course, the blogosphere is now laying into the IPCC with a vengeance and while they deserve it, I think mention should be made of another party whose laziness and slipshod practices stand yet again nakedly exposed by this particular episode. I’m of course referring to the journalists of the MSM.
In what now seems to be a bygone era, junior reporters had hammered into them by editors what were called the two golden rules. The first one is never believe a word from a government or any official spokesman. The second one is that when you’re handed a story on a plate by somebody, ask yourself what’s in it for them. At face value these rules may appear to be cynical but they were what kept the fourth estate from lapsing into a public relations organ of any and all vested interests.
When looked at in the context of these two simple rules, this was a massive fail by all those journalists concerned. All they did was regurgitate the PR release without applying any critical faculties to the claim being made. Given the current under performance of renewable energy sources and the not unreasonable estimate that the world with its extra two billion people will be demanding more energy by the mid-century, the claim looks hopelessly optimistic.
The story on a plate of course serves the purposes of Greenpeace and the renewables industry. In the current financial climate, the latter are fighting to save the government subsidies that are keeping their corporate profitability on life support. Judging from their bombed out share prices, investors are not optimistic on their chances of survival.
Of course, the situation could have been retrieved if just one enterprising journalist somewhere in the world had checked the claim when the full report was published. Just one. This never happened and in my experience, was unlikely to ever happen either. Instead Steve McIntyre, the man who debagged the hockey stick, did the spade work and the truth came out.
What does this all mean? Well actually it means independent journalism in the MSM is dead. What’s left is a thinly disguised PR mechanism for the establishment. Yes, the establishment. It’s a very sixties moment when you finally realise this. Its function is to present a monolithic officially approved viewpoint on any non-trivial subject. It doesen’t even bother any more to project even a shadow of an illusion of plurality. It is now “the man” and, as they said in the sixties, you’ve got to go up against the man. A lot of other people at the time chose to drop out; the opinions, lifestyle and aspirations on offer were all so totally alien to them. In the absence of any other alternative, they created their own thing.
What’s often forgotten is that a third way was found by many of the disillusioned people of the era. They started publishing their own magazines and periodicals. They were modest efforts and most of them eventually foundered but the best of them survived and went on to great success, which some of them still enjoy to this day. They prospered at the expense of the MSM until it restructured its offering.
In an analogous fashion, the blogosphere has become the information source of choice for those disillusioned with the MSM’s uniform and authoritarian output. It’s only there that you’ll find diversity and dissent from the officially approved party line. It’s there that you’ll find people prepared to give honest comment, analysis and insight without worrying what their employer might think; all the best ones are unpaid anyway. It’s there you’ll find people who are prepared to say what most people are thinking.
Ever since the blogosphere outed the Climategate scandal, its power and influence has increased at the expense of the MSM. What was once regarded as an underdog to be marginalised and ignored is now an opinion former. Across the world, newsrooms are being culled of journalists; the product simply isn’t selling. Conversely, more and more people are turning to the blogosphere.
Tune into the blogosphere and drop out of the MSM. It’s there that you’ll find people like Steve McIntyre. Investigative journalism is alive and well; it’s just moved house.
ps. One for the underdogs. They can really bite. Amp number 11 on this one too.
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