Fred Pearce is a rubbish journalist

If anyone needs evidence that the “reporting” crutch of He Said, She Said is still being employed by stenographers masquerading as journalists, here’s Fred Pearce in New Scientist.

No serious effort is made to inform the reader which of the parties is actually supported by reality. Note the weasel wording and false balance throughout, e.g.: “some of the researchers involved take issue with a suggestion that greenhouse gases are not primarily responsible for global warming”; “Foster’s team concludes… But de Freitas says”; “The vitriol continues”; etc. It’s a stereotypical example of the “on the one hand, on the other” style that has so distorted the public’s understanding of the issue of anthropogenic climate change.

It’s 2010, FFS. This article should be held up as a model for how reporting should not be done.

Of course, this is hardly the first time Pearce has done crap reporting, though it should be noted he’s an equal opportunity offender.

  • Boykoff, M.T. and Boykoff, J.M., 2004: Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press. Global Environ Chang., 14 125–136 doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2003.10.001
  • Foster, G., J.D. Annan, P.D. Jones, M.E. Mann, B. Mullan, J. Renwick, J. Salinger, G.A. Schmidt, and K.E. Trenberth, 2010: Comment on “Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature” by J.D. McLean, C.R. de Freitas, and R.M. Carter. J. Geophys. Res., 115, D09110, doi:10.1029/2009JD012960.

15 responses to “Fred Pearce is a rubbish journalist

  1. Wow…is this the same Fred Pearce that wrote With Speed and Violence? Times certainly have changed…


  2. First ran across Pearce writing on climategate in the Guardian while wearing an ‘unbiased reporter’ disguise. Just as in New Scientist his ‘reporting’ was a stenographic pasting of quotes called reportage. When he proudly proclaimed his opening of discussion to ‘experts’, who turned out to be more of the denialist rabble I gave up in disgust. Amazed he still finds a market for his derivative drivel.

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  4. In the Pearce article, we know the backstory and can identify the flaws. I recently found it interesting as an exercise to read a similar-type article on a subject I know little about:
    and realize how helpless the general reader is. Possible backstories range from (1) the study is c**p and the Imperial College biologist is a nutcase to (2) industry is colluding to cover up the implications of proven science. There’s not even enough information to allow a scientist to read between the lines and decide which is more likely.

    Stories like these illustrate the difference between facts and truth.

  5. Just read the New Science article and all I can say is you are absolutely right.

    What a piece of garbage. It’s not a hard story to write and write correctly.

  6. Yeah – he’s at it again at The Guardian:

    …not that the book he’s written with the Guardian’s support needs any publicity or anything, right?

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  12. Maybe the sudden death of his teenage son of heart failure in 2005 dimmed his passion? I know this was a while later, and he’s stopped writing entirely now from what I can make out, but if I were him, I’d find it hard to ever get out of bed again after such a tragedy.

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