A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

EnviroSpin's New Year's 'Honours and Horrors' List for 2005.....

EnviroSpin's 'Triumphs and Turkeys' for 2005

Scale: [*****] = Outstanding environmental/science reporting - to - [!] = Unmitigated ecohype
{From the Triumphs.....

The Times [****]: the only outlet currently worthy of four stars. Balanced, critical reporting, largely free from ecohype. Strives to distinguish clearly 'news' from 'comment'. Its Science Correspondent, Mark Henderson, is one of the sanest around, and 'EnviroSpin' is delighted that Mark has won an award for one of his reports. Interestingly, I believe Mark was trained as an historian and his sense of perspective comes through clearly.

BBC Online News [***]: the BBC's online environment reporting has improved exponentially since the appointment of Richard Black as its Environment Correspondent. Richard works hard to base his reports on hard research and data, and he brings a critical eye to any peddled ecohype. Also, some wonderfully critical reporting of the Montreal Conference by Roger Harrabin. The wider BBC could learn much from this online improvement.

The Financial Times [***]: mainly acceptable and unhysterical reportage, although, perhaps somewhat remarkably for this particular newspaper, it is far too uncritical on the economics of many environmental issues, especially climate change.

The Daily Telegraph [**(*)]: this once proud paper is in a mess, being largely leaderless, aimless, and locked into a declining readership from a bygone age. Its attempts to turn itself into the 'Hurleygraph' endear it to few. The environmental coverage can be good, sometimes very good, but it is at present schizophrenic, swinging violently between hard-nosed right wing analysis and the crocodile tears of the new, caring, green-wellie Conservatives. It will inevitably swing more to Cameron if he does well in the polls. The paper needs a radical overhaul and much firmer direction. The paper should be praised, however, for taking on the Royal Society, and it does attempt to distinguish 'news' from 'comment'.

Newsnight (BBC 2) [**(*)]: has improved markedly this year, and Newsnight is now presenting far more critical analyses, especially of the politics and economics of climate change and energy. Occasionally, the language used is not as careful as it might be, but it has, thank goodness, avoided plumbing the depths of Channel 4 News (see below).

The Guardian and The Observer [**]: these have, thankfully, likewise saved themselves from joining The Independent (see below) in the depths, The Guardian especially through its Thursday 'Science Section' [***(*)] and through taking on board a wider range of critical commentators, including, for example, Simon Jenkins. It still, however, often fails to make a clear distinction between 'news' and 'comment', and some of the environmental coverage is little more than ecohype. The 'Environment' portion [!] of the Wednesday 'Society Section' is unadulterated ecohype of the worst kind. Luckily, this is only read by a tiny band of faithful believers. Bloggers have done well in correcting some of the more ludicrous reporting.

The Sunday Times [**]: not a patch on its daily equivalent. Its environmental reporting is random and unpredictable.

The Independent [!]: many believe The Independent to be no longer worthy of being called a 'newspaper'. Pure, unadultered ecohype. It appears to have turned itself into the campaigning arm of the most extreme environmentalist (and other) lobbies, with no attempt to distinguish critical 'news' or science from 'comment'. A disgrace to thoughtful, balanced journalism. You know just how bad it has become when a well-known environmentlist, note, told me that one should only read The Independent in public with it hidden behind another more acceptable magazine, like Prospect! The Independent is taken apart regularly, and brutally, by bloggers.

Channel 4 News (!): The Independent on telly. Everything is George W. Bush's fault. Painfully self-righteous, it has become boring and predictable. Far too much Snow drift.

{..... to the Turkeys}


Our Honours this year are, therefore, awarded as follows:

The EnviroSpin Accolade: The Times;
The Progress Prize: BBC News Online;
The Wooden Spoon: Joint winners - The Independent and Channel 4 News.

Also: during the year, I have been lucky enough to appear on a number of key television and radio news and politics programmes. My own Personal Awards for 2005 are as follows (taking into account the critical journalism involved and the courtesy of the staff):

The Stotty Accolade: The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2;
The Good Fun Prize: Joint winners - The Daily Politics (BBC2) and More4 News.

Philip, every good wish for a most prosperous and ecohype-free New Year to you all. See you in 2006. The best single malts all round!

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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