Are you reading the new journalism, or do you still wear the blinders of the old?

The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.
— Sir Arthur C Clarke, interview with Nalaka Gunawardene, posted at OneWorld, 5 December 2003

As the old media slowly fade into irrelevance, with their dying business models and narrow range “news” (only that which fits the acceptable “narratives”), new media fill the empty niche they leave. Look at these new additions of the FM blogroll. They deserve your attention. They certainly should be on your Twitter feeds.

For More Information

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Lessons about global warming from Alaska

Summary:  This story about global warming in Alaska has many lessons for us.  About our climate, our news media, about how we process information about our world.  It’s a classic application of our methodology, close examination of a small subject to learn large lessons.

Alaska Climate Science Center
Alaska Climate Science Center

This is the annual deviation from the 1949-2011 average. The black line is the 5-year moving average.

3 December 1973
3 December 1973. Past fads always look silly.



  1. Introduction
  2. In 2009 Alaska’s scientists looked at their climate
  3. What do they see today?
  4. Other posts about climate forecasts
  5. Some vital things to remember about global warming!
  6. For More Information

No “baked Alaska” puns, please.


(1)  Introduction

In May 2009 I posted A look at the temperature record of Alaska – any sign of global warming?., describing research from the Alaska Climate Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  This evoked the usual anti-intellectual response from global warming believers, considering scientists who disagree with their dogma to be charlatans — and directing personal insults to anyone citing these scientists.

The point of that post was to show that the news media’s narrative about global warming consisted of a narrow slice of climate science work, carefully limited to mold public opinion. Most obviously, areas with warming receive publicity (they’re climate); unusually cold receive little (just weather). Worse, local news media often attribute changes in local flora and fauna to warming — even if their local area has none, or even cooled.

As an antidote we post about large areas with stable or even falling temperatures during the “pause” in warming of the past (roughly) 14 years, and describe the strong influence of factors other than rising CO2 on Earth’s ever-changing climate. More broadly, the FM website provides real journalism, showing that although there is a broad consensus among climate scientists, there are also large areas of disagreement — doing so by citing scientists actual words and showing the data.

My conclusion:  the narrative that “the science is settled” is false, propaganda to prematurely close off further debate and force premature policy actions.  More research is needed — better funded and with third-party reviews.  Eventually we will have the necessary answers, provided either by scientists or the climate.

Read these posts (or other sources) to see the full picture; then decide for yourself.

(2)  In 2009 Alaska’s scientists looked at their climate

Here is the March 2009 Temperature Change in Alaska page from the website of the Alaska Climate Research Center. Here is what they said at the start of 2009; how has three more years of data changed their views?  Their attribution of temperature trends to the PDO attracted much criticism from lay warmistas; now the role of these cycles (eg, PDO, ADO, ENSO) is accepted, if still widely underestimated.  (red emphasis added)

The topic of climate change has attracted widespread attention in recent years and is an issue that numerous scientists study on various time and space scales. One thing for sure is that the earth’s climate has and will continue to change as a result of various natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms.

This page features the trends in mean annual and seasonal temperatures for Alaska’s first-order observing stations since 1949, the time period for which the most reliable meteorological data are available. The temperature change varies from one climatic zone to another as well as for different seasons. If a linear trend is taken through mean annual temperatures, the average change over the last 6 decades is 3.1°F.

… Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. The figure at right shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period.

The figure {see graph at the top of this post} shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2008) for all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates large increase in 1976. The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2008, however since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations.

The stepwise shift appearing in the temperature data in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.

24 December 1979
24 December 1979. It’s about the energy crisis. Not global cooling. No matter how often the anti-warmistas say so.


(3)  Update: what do they see today?

How has the ACRC’s “Alaska Temperature” page changed since March 2009?

  • The end dates changed from 2008 to 2011.
  • The “average change over the last 6 decades” changed from 3.1°F to 3.0°F.
  • They still say “since 1977 little additional warming has occurred in Alaska”

Last year they published a study with more detailed analysis: “The First Decade of the New Century: A Cooling Trend for Most of Alaska“, G. Wendler, L. Chen and B. Moore, Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2012 — Abstract:

During the first decade of the 21st century most of Alaska experienced a cooling shift, modifying the long-term warming trend, which has been about twice the global change up to this time. All of Alaska cooled with the exception of Northern Regions. This trend was caused by a change in sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which became dominantly negative, weakening the Aleutian Low. This weakening results in less relatively warm air being advected from the Northern Pacific.

This transport is especially important in winter when the solar radiation is weak. It is during this period that the strongest cooling was observed. In addition, the cooling was especially pronounced in Western Alaska, closest to the area of the center of the Aleutian Low. The changes seen in the reanalyzed data were confirmed from surface observations, both in the decrease of the North-South atmospheric pressure gradient, as well as the decrease in the mean wind speeds for stations located in the Bering Sea area.

(4)  Other posts about climate forecasts

  1. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle
  2. More about the forecast for flooded cities in the late 21st century
  3. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses
  4. What can climate scientists tell about the drivers of future warming?
  5. What can climate scientists tell us about the drivers of future warming?  – part two of two
  6. Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future
  7. An optimistic &  successful (so far) forecast by an eminent climate scientist

(5)  Some vital things to remember about global warming!

While cheering madly (ie, irrationally, emotionally, hysterically) for their faction of scientists, laypeople often lose sight of the big picture — the key elements for making public policy.

The major global temperature measurement systems tell — broadly speaking — the same story since the late 1970s: two decades of warming, followed by a pause.

This is consistent with the larger firm conclusions of climate scientists: two centuries of warming, coming in pulses (ie, waves), with anthropogenic factors becoming the largest (not the only) drivers since roughly 1950.


(6)  For more information

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

Posts on the FM site about global cooling:

  1. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  2. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008
  3. One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008
  4. An important letter sent to the President about the danger of climate change, 21 October 2009
  5. About those headlines from the past century about global cooling…, 2 November 2009
  6. A look at global warming written in a cooler and more skeptical time, giving us a better understanding of climate science, 23 November 2009
  7. The facts about the 1970’s Global Cooling scare, 7 December 2009





Journalists, relying on anonymous government sources, attack anonymous bloggers who correct journalists’ errors

Summary:  Today’s lack of self-awareness award goes to these CNN journalists, on CNN’s Newsroom.

Here we have a conversation by journalists about the news, displaying an astonishing lack of awareness about the limitations about their business that have diminished their credibility and vaporized the profitability of their employers.  Their self-congratulations are nuts as so many stories in recent years are broken by bloggers and alternative media. 

They mention the bloggers role in the Sherrod incident, ignoring that of the mainstream media.  Who did little other than using their bullhorn to propagate the lies and — eventually — the true story.  The most interesting aspect of this story is why the media spread Breitbart’s story — that of a serial fabulist — without first verifying it.  And why this sort of activity requires journalists,  rather than clerks and stenographers. 

This is little more than sour graphs, yearning for a bygone day when they controlled the flow of information to the pubic — who were passive consumers.  When the only people who could “that people can post whatever they want about anyone and get away with it” were journalists.

Update:  For a survey of critical coverage of this farce, see Glenn Greenwald at Salon.

Transcript from CNN’s Newsroom, 23 July 2010

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And one that you and I discuss all the time. There are so many great things that the internet does and has to offer, but at the same time, Kyra, as you know, there was this dark side where — anyone’s enemy can take something nasty and post it on the internet and maybe it doesn’t rise to the level as did it with Shirley Sherrod, but it still gets out there among a certain community and does damage to that person’s reputation.

Imagine, what would have happened if we hadn’t taken a look at — what happened with Shirley Sherrod and plumb the depths further and found out that what had been posted on the internet was not, in fact, reflective of what she said? Would she still be without a job? Would her reputation still be ruined? That, to some degree, is the effect of what many people might consider to be a wild west of the internet where anybody can post anything they want about anyone.

Andrew Keen is the author of “The Cult of the Amateur.” How blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and other user generated media are killing the American economy, the culture, and our values. Here’s what he says about this idea that people can post whatever they want about anyone and many times, probably more times than not, get away with it.

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Clay Shirky is brilliant and American – hence often delusionally flattering

America’s broken Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action loop (aka OODA loop; see Wikipedia for details) affects us all, distorting our ability to see even simple things.  It’s most clearly seen in experts writing about their own fields.  Today’s example is Clay Shirky, one of America’s top writers about the evolution of the news media.  See his Wikipedia entry and bio about his background (that’s an important part of this story).

Much of Shirky’s writing is brilliant.  In this post we see him writing about what he knows best, something that concerns him most — and the result is almost delusional.  But not randomly so.  Profitably so, flattering so — esp to his media-centric audience.  (This is a tiny part of his speech, which is worthwhile reading)

Excerpt from Shirky’s speech at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, 22 September 2009 (transcript by Joshua Benton, Director of the Nieman Journalism Lab, posted at their website) — Red emphasis added. 

There is an unbroken line from the Globe’s publication of that article to the worldwide pressure of the Catholic Church is now under, to both account for its past and alter its behavior in the future. Which, by way of introduction, makes it clear what’s at stake with what Professor Jones calls accountability journalism. This is a classic example of, again quoting from Losing the News, of the iron core of journalism and in particular the investigative journalism category, where 3 reporters are dispatched for a long period on a story that may or may not pan out.

… None of those 3 things -– overpaying, underserving, and the incoherence of the print bundle in a web of content — will be altered by reversing the revenue trend.

… Now this doesn’t mean that all newspapers go away. It does mean that a lot of them go away. … So the restructuring that environment, even for those newspapers that survive, will mean that newspapers play a less significant role in accountability journalism in the future then they have the past

Which leaves us with a giant hole, and a very threatening one. And the nightmare scenario that I’ve been spinning at for the last couple years has been:  Every town in this country of 500,000 or less just sinks into casual, endemic, civic corruption — that without somebody going down to the city council again today, just in case, that those places will simply revert to self-dealing. Not of epic, catastrophic sorts, but the sort that just takes 5% off the top. Newspapers have been our principal bulwark for that, and as they’re shrinking, that I think is where the threat is.

This is nuts on several levels, and probably results from a someone writing about the news media who never worked the city desk at a local paper — or anything remotely like this.  It’s fantasy.  The commonplace delusions which prevent us from understanding our situation, and result in America majestically drifting onto the rocks.

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Updates to posts past on the FM website

Some articles you might find of interest, updates about matters discussed on the FM website.


  1. About government efforts to control the news
  2. At last, sensible action to mitigate the housing crisis
  3. News about the financial crisis
  4. About the US dollar

(1)  About government efforts to control the news

“Media Criticism, Chicago-Style“, Glenn Reynolds, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, 5 November 2009

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Must the old media die for the new media to flourish?

Summary:   The mainstream media is dying to a large extent of self-inflicted wounds.  Journalists instead blame a wide range of other factors, following our new national motto: “It’s not MY fault!”

Here is a look at our changing news media by an expert.  It’s worth a look, as the media is a major force re-shaping America:

  • A New Horizon for the News“, Michael Massing (contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review), New York Review of Books, 24 September 2009

Massing illustrates the deep roots of the crisis facing the mainstream media — by what he ignores more than by what he describes.

The American news business today finds itself trapped in a grim paradox. Financially, its prospects have never seemed bleaker. By some measures, the first quarter of 2009 was the worst ever for newspapers, with sales plunging $2.6 billion. Last year, circulation dropped on average by 4.6% on weekdays and 4.8% on Sundays.

… Yet amid all this gloom, statistics from the Internet suggest that interest in news has rarely been greater. … The MTV generation, known for its indifference to news, has given way to the Obama generation, which craves it, and for an industry long reconciled to the idea of its customers dying off, the reengagement of America’s young offers a rare ray of hope.

How could the financial fortunes of a $50 billion–plus industry decline so swiftly while its product remains so prized? The most immediate explanation is the collapse of what has long been the industry’s economic base: advertising. …

The fall-off in ad revenues has been compounded by another phenomenon that newspaper executives would rather not discuss: their own greed. The relentless stress placed on acquisition and consolidation, which dominated the industry for decades, helped drain money out of newsrooms and into the pockets of shareholders. It also shifted the locus of decision-making from locally based citizens to distant corporate boards.

When it comes to mismanagement, then, the newspaper business seems in a class with Detroit. Unlike GM, though, newspapers offer a product that consumers still value.

Massing ignores the other explanation:  the US auto industries and newspapers suffer the same problem — consumers want news and automobiles, just not the products US companies offer.  His entire analysis crashes on this error.

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We know nothing because we read newspapers

Here are some articles to remember when reading the mainstream media’s frequent self-congratulations, their mourning as they lose influence, and disparagement of new media reporting.

  1. The Vitality of Mythical Numbers“, Max Singer, Public Interest, Spring, 1971
  2. The (Continued) Vitality of Mythical Numbers“, Peter Reuter,Public Interest, Spring 1984
  3. The (Ongoing) Vitality of Mythical Numbers – Does ID theft really cost $48 billion a year?“, Jack Shafer, Slate, 26 June 2006
  4. More Mythical Numbers – The GAO debunks the official human-trafficking estimates“, Jack Shafer, Slate, 16 August 2006
  5. Other articles about these things
  6. For more information and Afterword


While mythical numbers will always circulate at warp speed, on the Internet the corrections often circulate almost as fast — unlike the mainstream media who often ignore their errors (unless forced to acknowledge them by the growing new media).

(1)  The Vitality of Mythical Numbers“, Max Singer, Public Interest, Spring, 1971 — Excerpt:

Along the same lines, this exercise is another reminder that even responsible officials, responsible newspapers, and responsible research groups pick up and pass on as gospel numbers that have no real basis in fact. We are reminded by this experience that because an estimate has been used widely by a variety of people who should know what they are talking about, one cannot assume that the estimate is even approximately correct.

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