In a seemingly endless battle, even small victories deserve to be noted. And it is indeed a small victory on the climate-change front that The Star's public editor, Kathy English, reports on in today's edition.
In dismissing a complaint against the Toronto Star’s publication of a New York Times report about repercussions of climate change on the Louisiana coast, Canada’s National NewsMedia Council has affirmed two important principles.In adjudicating the complaint, brought by Georgetown resident Pav Penna in response to a New York Times article attributing climate change as a reason for the relocation of residents of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, the Council told Penna
First, the council indicated that fair and accurate reporting on some subjects — most importantly, climate change — need not engage in what is known in journalism as “false balance” – that is, a perceived need for journalists to seek out “the other side” of a controversial issue when the overwhelming scientific consensus strongly supports one side.
False balance wrongly seeks to provide equal weight to two sides of an argument when in fact the evidence-based information indicates there is no real argument.
... it is a journalistic standards organization, not “an arena for assessment of or debate on deep science” and pointed out that the article did not say that climate change is the sole reason for changes on Isle de Jean Charles.In the greater scheme of things, this victory perhaps means very little, but at least it establishes the principle that fair and balanced reporting does not require the inclusion of those that hew to 'junk science' and other similar crackpot ideas that seek to deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is not simply 'a theory among theories,' but rather an established fact.
“Journalistic standards related to fairness and balance has been satisfied in the article’s noting of factors such as subsidence and channel cutting,” it stated. “Council finds this is a reasonable balance considering the weight of scientific and expert views.”
Those who take exception are, of course, free to read the favourite organs of the far right, including The Sun and The National Post, both of whom rarely let facts get in the way of a good screed.