George Bush has somehow managed to go seven years without admitting to the rest of the world that global warming is real. One more legacy of the administration falls away as he has now not only admitted it, but believes that human might play a part in it. I'm interested what role the media has played in allowing this "belief" to persist for so long against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Do journalists have a responsibility to ask questions over and over even if someone says they just "believe" something? Do we have to ask why people believe something? Is this news worthy of attention, or is there space for it in between all the human interest stories about geese accidentally being adopted at an animal shelter?
I intentionally looked at two extremely different sources, an AP story published in the Washington Post and the Guardian UK. Obviously the Post is just a little bit conservative in its approach while the Guardian is a little lefty. How did their ideological approach differ?
The titles are obviously a good starting point. Here it is:
"Europeans angry after Bush climate speech 'charade'"
The sub head has two points:
"· US isolated as China and India refuse to back policy.
"· President claims he can lead world on emissions."
Now, I know that Bush doesn't probably even know what the Guardian is. But if he read those headlines over his breakfast of pretzels and powerade it might make even him lose his appetite. Obviously they're intended for someone who already has an opinion about the president.
The Washington Post AP article says only, "Bush Seeks New Image on Global Warming"
The Post is based out of that former swamp brimming with politicians. If they took every opportunity to slam politicos then it would make doing their jobs more difficult. The headline tells us that they're taking the story in a different direction, covering the news that Bush is even talking about about global warming and his PR approach.
The AP however can't avoid the issue that other countries were upset by the proposal of a "voluntary" reduction in greenhouse gases, they mention it in the lead. THe first four paragraphs, however, talk about the good things Bush has done, how this is revolutionary for them to even participate. It gives an introduction to the event and then more postiive reactions. It's only on the second page, with seven paragraphs left to go, that it brings up negative reactions. It closes with a quote from some diplomat saying that while he think this si a good step, it probably has more to do with U.S. elections than global warming.
The Guardian story leads by painting the administration as isolated. It then goes into the plethora of people who had problems with the voluntary approach. About halfway down it notes that some people were excited about the prospects of the U.S. participating Guess what? They're not anymore. It closes with a quote from an environmentalist basically saying that the whole conference was a "diversion."
Something I rarely hear about in these journalism classes is discussion of how a story changes depending on who you decide to interview, whose perspectives are valid. Noam Chomsky has a thick book talking about it. Essentially, official positions are given precedent because they're easy and have immediate legitimacy. The critical mass story I blogged about last week is an interesting example.