Saturday, 20 December 2014

Australian Press Council tippy toes around climate change "theories or predictions"

The Australian Press Council found a Crikey journalist should not have used the word “hoodwinked”, rejected the remainder of John McLean’s complaint and, then carefully moved on tip toes around the subject of global warming and climate change. Presumably in the hope that Tony Abbott and Andrew Bolt’s winged monkeys would not descend in angry hoardes.

The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article by Elaine McKewon headed “Big Oil-backed climate denier who hoodwinked Fairfax” on the Crikey website on 13 January 2014.
The article described John McLean, the author of an article published in Fairfax newspapers, as being “misinformed”, “falsely presented as an expert on climate science”, “not affiliated with any university”, and having “no verifiable qualifications in the field of climate science” or “standing or expertise in climate science”. It also said he was a member of the ICSC which was a body aimed at “discrediting authoritative science on climate change” and had funding links to the oil company Exxon.
Mr McLean said the claims about his lack of standing and expertise were inaccurate and unfair. He denied deceiving the newspapers about his expertise and said that, in any event, they were under no obligation to publish only the opinions of climate science experts. He especially criticised the word “hoodwinked” in the article’s headline. He also complained that the statements about his links with the ICSC and its funding were inaccurate and unfair.
The Council considered that the word “hoodwinked” in the headline could reasonably be read as implying that Mr McLean had actively deceived the newspapers and readers. As no reasonable basis for that implication had been provided to the Council, this aspect of the complaint was upheld.
Mr McLean’s claims to standing and expertise, however, were not of sufficiently compelling force to establish misrepresentation or suppression by Ms McKewon in that respect. The same applied to his criticisms of her references to the ICSC and its funding. Accordingly, these aspects of the complaint were not upheld.  But it was emphasised that this conclusion did not amount to a finding that her claims were necessarily correct. It also did not involve an endorsement or rejection of any particular theories or predictions about climate change warming and related issues.

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