Jim Naureckas at the FAIR blog was one of those who criticized the recent article by Michael Lemonick and the climate change polls on Scientific American‘s website, which I’ve previously discussed. He wrote a follow-up post commenting on editor Mariette DiChristina’s defense of that package. I felt compelled to leave a response to his post in comments; here’s a copy of what I wrote:
Jim, I think you make some valid points here, though I think any attentive reading of Michael Lemonick’s whole article—rather than just the unfortunate title and deck—shows that Scientific American is not in fact engaging in false balance. Lemonick’s article really leaves no doubt that anthropogenic climate change is real and perilous, for example.
As for what [commenter] Dana Franchitto calls the “rotting firewall between advertising and editorial content,” as someone who worked beside that wall for 15 years at SciAm, I can attest that it’s in far better repair than he and others may believe. All commercial publications wrestle with these problems (and have for decades), but the people on both the editorial and business sides of SciAm work with exceptional integrity to preserve that church-and-state separation. The Shell poll bugs me, too, but I suspect its deficiencies are the result of errors, not venality.
Finally, Jim, your final question about the oil article from last year seems a bit desperate. First, the article does mention climate prominently in its 6th paragraph: “Although oil and other fossil fuels pose risks for the climate and the environment, for now alternative energy sources cannot compete with their versatility, cost, and ease of transport and storage. As research into alternatives goes on, we will need to be sure that we use the oil we have responsibly.” Second, the article is less about “the future of oil” than it is about improving oilfield pumping technologies; hence the title “Squeezing More Oil from the Ground.” Even those of us who yearn for a quick transition away from fossil fuels can still recognize the oil recovery problem as important and worthy of discussion.
Scientific American publishes constantly both in print and online about the realities of climate change and the need for action to forestall it. It’s done so for years. Don’t take my word for it; go to www.scientificamerican.com and look. Even if it makes some mistakes, it deserves more of a benefit of a doubt than you’ve shown it here. It certainly deserves not to have you contrive some ominous trend by connecting problems with the current online package of content to an article from last year you seem to think should have been about something else.
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