A Veteran TV Reporter on ‘Junk Journalism,’ Climate as ‘Too Big to Cover’

Bill Blakemore’s ABC News ‘Nature’s Edge’ blog post offers a reporter’s-eye take on challenges in covering an issue ‘so big’ as climate change.


It’s not often that a television news reporter gets 2,300 words to tell a story about climate change. Not often as in, like, never … just doesn’t happen.

For veteran ABC correspondent Bill Blakemore, who in recent years had become one of network television’s most ardent watchers of all-things-climate-change, the opportunity arose not on the air but rather on an ABC “Nature’s Edge” blog posting. Blakemore — climate “skeptics” are happy to celebrate — no longer broadcasts as part of ABC News network programming, but rather writes for the network’s online outlets, which provides him greater space … and more freedom to express personal views.

In a recent post, Blakemore takes on what he describes as journalism “malpractice.” It’s a term he attributes to unnamed “highly respected climate experts” concerning some reporters covering climate change. He points to what he calls “willful omission of overwhelming evidence the new droughts and floods are worsened by man-made global warming. He faults journalists for “unquestioning repetition, gullible at best, of transparent anti-science propaganda.” He laments mainstream American news outlets covering climate “less and less over the past two years.” And he says “a number of climate scientists” have told him they agree with charges that fossil fuel chief executive officers are guilty of a “crime against humanity.”

Climate Change Scale, Immensity Seen as Major Challenges

Blakemore points to “the scale” and “unprecedented immensity” of the climate change issue as posing severe coverage challenges. He says those characteristics run counter to the traditional local/national/foreign approach of many news outlets. “There are no global desks, so to speak — yet,” he writes.

At the same time, Blakemore writes that “junk journalism” on climate change is starting to fade in American and other media, “unable to stand in the reviewable definiteness of digital print as the scientists’ long-standing predictions continue to pan out.” What he calls “overt disinformation propaganda” has been “largely exposed.”

“The climate story is slowly but surely sorting phony journalism that abuses the professional label for purposes of paid-off or narrowly ideological advocacy, from truly professional journalism,” Blakemore wrote.

Prescription for Better Coverage? ‘Just Keep at It’

As for his “too big to cover” point, Blakemore lists a wide-ranging set of impacts — agriculture, public health, world finance, national intelligence priorities, and more — that offer media interests a way to “get a handhold” on the climate issue.

So how should professional journalists grapple with the challenge of “something so big?” Blakemore asks.

“Simple. By doing what we’ve been doing. We just keep at it, and start to figure it out.”

“Any big new story worth its salt always has new psychological barriers, by definition,” Blakemore concludes. “Manmade global warming appears, so far, to have the biggest of all.”

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One Response to A Veteran TV Reporter on ‘Junk Journalism,’ Climate as ‘Too Big to Cover’

  1. Martin Lack says:

    Go Bill! Keep up the good work. We need more people like him in journalism. George Monbiot is one of my heroes. Anyone who is hated by fools like Melanie Phillips (Daily Mail) and Christopher Booker and James Delingpole (Telegraph) is a friend of mine. George Monbiot and fellow Guardian columnist (and Medical Doctor) Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science) are two of the most important people in British journalism – in a field of employment dominated by those with Arts and Humanities degrees – they are like a colony of informed opinion in a petri dish of ignorance and ideological blindness.

    See also: http://lackofenvironment.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/peddlers-of-doubt/
    …and the posts on supposedly “sceptical” British journalists that followed it:
    – Brendan O’Neill – a left-wing ‘sceptic’;
    – Melanie Phillips – an unorthodox ‘sceptic’;
    – Christopher Booker – an illogical ‘sceptic’; and
    – James Delingpole – an ideological ‘sceptic’.