MediaWatch: March 1992

Vol. Six No. 3

Media Pretend Skeptical Scientists Don't Exist


Reporters like to pose as watchdogs of the government, claiming they are not stenographers to the powerful. Unless, of course, they agree with the government's policy. Case in point: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's press release on ozone depletion, issued on February 3. Reporters treated it not as a questionable government agency assertion, but a confirmation of their own views on the greenhouse effect.

On the February 8 NBC Nightly News, anchor Garrick Utley announced: "The protective ozone layer is getting thinner over the northern hemisphere and the White House finally agreed that the chemicals responsible should be phased out more quickly."

Six days later on World News Tonight, Peter Jennings echoed Utley: "This week, President Bush ordered American manufacturers to end, by 1995, all production of those chemicals which the Administration finally agrees are destroying the ozone layer even faster than had been imagined."

Jennings devoted his February 14 "Person of the Week" valentine to Sherwood Rowland, a scientist behind the ozone panic: "And so we choose Sherry Rowland because he was right. The Popular Science magazine once referred to him as 'The Man Who Saved the Planet -- Maybe.' Maybe -- now that the world is listening."

Time magazine devoted its February 17 cover to "Vanishing Ozone: The Danger Comes Closer to Home." Keeping Time's commitment to one-sided coverage, Associate Editor Michael D. Lemonick warned: "This unprecedented assault on the planet's life-support system could have horrendous long-term effects on human health, animal life, the plants that support the food chain, and just about every other strand that makes up the delicate web of nature. And it is too late to prevent the damage, which will worsen for years to come."

None of the hyped stories on the NASA "study" mentioned that NASA's findings have not undergone peer review from other scientists, a crucial step in determining the validity of any scientific study; and none of the stories included scientists who disagreed with NASA's conclusions, such as Patrick Michaels or Fred Singer. The average reader or viewer might have concluded none exist.

More than 40 atmospheric scientists issued a statement on February 27 criticizing the NASA study and the science behind the global warming hype, but the media ignored it. Instead, panic ruled. ABC predicted 300,000 skin cancers a year, despite what Michaels recently wrote: "An entire network of ground-based Ultraviolet-B meters (the wave lengths that cause skin cancer)...showed a decline in irradiance since they started up in 1974."