What climate and the debt ceiling have in common

Nobody's wrong if everybody's right.

This past weekend, WNYC’s On The Media looked at the media narratives surrounding the debt ceiling showdown.

What does that have to do with climate change?

Take a look at this:

As U.S. News and World Report’s chief business correspondent Rick Newman wrote recently, “Outside the Beltway there is some consensus. Many economists, corporate CEOs and those on Wall Street can agree that the debt ceiling situation needs to be resolved, and quick, with a combination of spending cuts and increased taxation.”

The economic consensus, though, is buried in the drama of the political showdown. The question is if there is so little to debate, why obsess about the debate.

Rick Newman says that all the coverage the public needs is there, if the audience is willing to sift through all the irrelevancies to find it. But the media are once again trapped in the losing proposition of giving equal time and equal respect to all parties.

Sound familiar?

I’m not the only one making that connection. Host Bob Garfield continues:

What if, and this is just a suppose, but what if this is a case, as we have seen in other issues – let’s say climate change, for example, where one side is right, the other side is just flatly wrong, but because the situation is so politicized the press can’t just categorically say, you know, this side is right? Let’s just say what the nation requires right now is a combination of deep spending cuts and modest tax gains. What if reality has a liberal bias?

In March, Raymond Pingree of Ohio State University released a study showing that politicized coverage of health care not only left readers less informed, but also more apathetic and disengaged in the policy process.

Which, then as now, was also clearly evident as a primary source of public ambivalence to climate change. And, as per yesterday’s post, unquestioning repetition of political talking points about light bulb efficiency standards has also led to a great deal of confusion and agitation.

It’s important to make sure news stories include multiple perspectives. But not at the expense of accuracy.

Photo by John Lawford via Creative Commons

One thought on “What climate and the debt ceiling have in common

  1. Ken,

    I listened to the episode and thought the same thing. It appears that climate change is becoming the poster child for how the “he-said, she-said” debate is not adequately addressing the issue. However, media critics have been saying this for a long time and there doesn’t seem to be much of a shift. For more on this, check out Chapter 3 of Climate Shift by Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D.: http://climateshiftproject.org/report/climate-shift-clear-vision-for-the-next-decade-of-public-debate/#chapter-3