Garfield's Take on Romm: On the Money

On the Media’s Bob Garfield recently discussed the NY Times magazine’s Freeman Dyson profile with Joe Romm. You can count on Romenesko to capture the best moment in the exchange:

ROMM: What The New York Times Magazine has done is elevate Dyson to a very high degree of credibility as a highly credible source on global warming, which he isn’t.

GARFIELD: Wow, I so can’t believe we’ve read the same story. The story I read didn’t promote his opinions in any fashion, such as you’re describing.

Take a moment to read the entire transcript, which includes Garfield’s interview with Nicholas Dawidoff, the author of the Dyson piece. Garfield also rebuts the smear tactics waged against Dawidoff:

While Romm and others may be rightfully aggrieved by what they deem to be the legitimization of wild climate theories, their accusation that Nicholas Dawidoff is a sportswriter and therefore unfit to profile Freeman Dyson is plainly inaccurate.

I think it’s good that Romm’s harebrained attacks on reporters get examined more closely by the media. And that he’s called on to defend his rants publicly.

Garfield is also highly respected. His debate with Romm is a necessary antitode to the echo-chamber insanity that poured forth after the Dyson piece appeared.

6 Responses to “Garfield's Take on Romm: On the Money”

  1. Tim Lambert says:

    Dawidoff’s defence is that he could acquire the necessary expertise in climate science while writing his piece.  But this he manifestly failed to do.  He just gives up  and doesn’t even try to  inform his readers on whether Dyson’s claims are true.

    Are journalists the only people in the world who think they can become experts on any topic by cramming for a week or so?

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    Dawidoff said this:

    “And, I mean, I killed myself for this Freeman Dyson piece, as I hope I do for every piece, but I spent months reading, talking to dozens and dozens and dozens of people.”

    That’s not cramming for a week. Still, to you, it sounds like he obviously flunked the climate science test.

    Personally, I think that many of the Dawidoff critics fail to distinguish between a newspaper article and magazine profile. They are different animals.

  3. Tim Lambert says:

    So Dawidoff crammed for a couple of months and flunked.  That hardly helps your case.  Why do journalists think they can become instant experts on everything?  Why do you think it is a smear to point out that Dawidoff has no background in the subject area of his piece?

    I don’t see why you are drawing the distinction between articles and profiles.  Are you saying that profiles don’t have to be accurate?

  4. Keith Kloor says:

    Magazine writers are a different breed. Gay Talese is not an expert in Hollywood or entertainment but he wrote the definitive profile on Sinatra.

    Now I’m not suggesting that the Dyson piece is destined to become a literary classic. My point is, it’s totally normal for long-form journalists to be generalists. And the accusation that Dawidoff was some sportswriter was intended to undermine his credibility as a journalist.

    Finally, I did not draw a distinction between articles and profiles–I said there was a difference between a newspaper article and a magazine profile. To make it simpler: there is a huge difference between a long-form magazine story and a standard newspaper article. And there are equal standards of accuracy for both.

    As I recall, the heart of the criticism wasn’t that the profile was innaccurate, but that the Times chose to give Dyson such a prominent vehicle to air his contrarian views on climate science. And that the author didn’t make more of an effort to counter those views.

    Those are phony charges. It was perfectly legitimate for the Times Magazine to feature Dyson and the author did not have to provide equal space to the other side of the climate change spectrum.

    A debate over climate science was not the focus of the story. The theme was that of a brilliant scientist’s lifetime as a contrarian. It just so happened that his controversial stance on climate change was the topical hook that made the Dyson story relevant.

  5. Tim Lambert says:

    You say “A debate over climate science was not the focus of the story”.  What? The focus of the story was Dyson’s views on climate science.  I counted the number of paragraphs that mentioned climate science and they comprised more than half of the number of paragraphs in the articles.

    You claim there is some standard of accuracy that such a piece is required to meet, but Dawidoff includes numerous inaccurate claims that Dyson makes about the science.  In the interview you linked, Dawidoff makes it clear that he doesn’t even think it’s his job to figure out whether what Dyson says is true or not.  Seems to me Dawidoff is doing stenography, not journalism.

    But you think the problem is Joe Romm because he is mean to journalists about the crappy job they are doing communicating climate science.

  6. […] Tobis, who I have come to respect for his thoughtful commentary, loses me on this score. During the uproar over the New York Times magazine profile of Freeman Dyson, Tobis took this ethical responsibility […]

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