Loves Me, Loves Me Not

Last week, two tireless bloggers who are often highly critical of the media had opposite reactions to ABC, one of the major broadcast networks in the U.S.

Joe Romm praised this segment on the recent floods in Australia and Brazil as

one of the best climate change stories ever to appear on a major network’s evening news show.

Meanwhile, Orac panned ABC’s morning news show for its decision to interview anti-vaccine crusader Andrew Wakefield, the subject of a recent devastating investigative report. According to Orac, this was yet another sorry example of

fallacious “tell both sides” journalism…

Can anyone tell me why these respective pronouncements of GOOD ABC (Romm) and BAD ABC (Orac) are wrong? Extra bonus points for which ABC segment got the story right and why.

8 Responses to “Loves Me, Loves Me Not”

  1. isaacschumann says:

    For some reason the videos won’t play this morning, so I can’t comment on those. The Wakefield story appears fine to me, and I have zero sympathy for anti-vaxers. I like Orac, but I have to disagree on this one, I didn’t get the impression of false balance. Maybe they weren’t as mean as he would have liked.
    The only thing I can say about the flooding piece is that it seems to rely entirely on Richard Sommerville, I’m not familiar with him, but he seems well respected and a relevant expert. I would think that it would be better to have multiple opinions tho? (I don’t mean bring out a ‘skeptic’, just other experts, John N-G, Gavin or Judith for example)

  2. Steven Sullivan says:

    Why can’t they both be right? (Or wrong?)   Can’t ABC — or, say,  bloggers — get it right sometimes, and other times not?

  3. Keith Kloor says:


    Instead of offering a hypothetical, how about answering the questions? I’ll be happy to provide what I believe are the right answers, but you go ahead and give an honest shot, first.

  4. BobN says:

    Romm pronounces the ABC new story good because it perfectly meshes with his position on climate change and is devoid of what he perceives as “false balance”.    However, the story only presented the position of a few climate scientists.  Further, the story implied that the severity of the events was entirely attributable to climate change without any mention that (1) there are many qualified climate scientists that would say it is premature or even impossible to attribute any soingle event to climate change and (2) made no mention of contributing factors, such as building in flood plains or steep, muddy hillsides or potentially poor flood management.  In short, it seems Romm only praised it because it exactly matches his position on climate change (Hell and High Water)

    The trailer and accompanying ABC story regarding Wakefield pretty much sticks to the line that his work was fradulent and that there is no evidence that MMR vaccine in any way contributes to/causes autism.  However, Orac seems to be castigating ABC for even allowing Wakefield an opportunity to speak even though it seems clear that ABC is reporting his work as fradulent.

    So I would say that both Romm’s praise and Orac’s condemnation miss the mark.  As to which piece ABC got right, i would say the vaccine story.

  5. lucia says:

    I may be mistaken, but my impression is that ABC relied on Richard Sommerville for much of their expert opinion.  I think he recently joined an activist group whose intention is to specifically communicate the connection between weather and climate.  If so, my impression is that journalistic standards advice disclosing such link.
    I couldn’t watch the story on autism.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    I’m waiting for Steven Sullivan to render his verdict.

    Of course, it’d be great if others took a shot, too.

  7. isaacschumann says:

    OK Keith, vaccine story, good, flooding story, bad. IMO, the vaccine story was good because it showed both sides to the argument but did not give them equal credibility, it accurately presented the scientific consensus on the issue without ignoring the anti-vaxxers, which would have created the impression of bias.
    I couldn’t see the video, but the flooding story seemed to rely entirely on richard sommerville. While a relevant expert, he is also a member of an advocacy org. Also, his take on attribution does not seem to jive with the way scientists like Gavin or John N-G talk about attribution. Overall, the story had the feel of being simply a mouthpiece for one guy, which gives the impression of bias to me. (nothing against sommerville, I’m sure he’s a good guy)

  8. Keith Kloor says:

    So it appears not many takers on this one. Hmm, what to make of that?  I’m a little disappointed that frequent commenters such as Marlowe, Steven, and others did not offer their own answers or interpretations of the two segments.

    Anyway, kudos to those who did and you all pretty much nailed it (but you knew that already–the answers were that easy.)

    Rather than me explain why Romm’s gushing praise for ABC is absurd, you can head over to Bryan Walsh for this post and over to Tom Yulsman for this one.

    As for the Good Morning America interview with Wakefield, well, that was pretty self evident, for the reasons commenters #4 and #7 pointed out.

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