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UMN Alumni Magazine, climate change, and editorial balance

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Do news organizations have a responsibility to provide media coverage proportional to the scientific understanding of a topic? Is that even possible? (Assuming that the Minnesota Magazine really is a news organization.) Does that squelch minority opinions? (The world would still be flat if not for minority opinions.) Or does the need to maintain topic interest and controversy trump scientific consensus and editorial reporting?

Minnesota Magazine published an article on climate change (Sept/Oct 2006, "Hot Commodity", which elicited this response from a UMN alumni in the letters to the editor (Nov/Dec 2006):

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Inconvenient Articles

Have you ever considered renaming your magazine Minnesota/Global Warming? It seems that every single issue is devoted to the idea of global warming, blames Bush, and allows no room for debate on the issues. A little, and I mean little, amount of research on the subject (Minnesota is a research University, right?) told me a few things not mentioned in your articles:

• The cost for America to comply with the Kyoto provisions have been estimated as high as $440 billion annually, would cost millions of jobs, and punish families to the tune of $2,700 a year.

• The United States got the worst of the deal when Clinton signed the Kyoto treaty: other countries were assigned lower reductions or completely exempted.

• The Senate voted unanimously 95-0 to reject the terms of the treaty.

• Satellite and weather balloon data show none of the warming found by land-based thermometers.

I look forward to the November–December magazine, which no doubt will mention how Christmas (excuse me, “holiday season”) will be ruined by global warming.

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Which then elicited this response from a different alumni (Jan/Feb 2007):

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Equal Time is Unbalanced

[NAME] is apparently the new conservative voice that helps the alumni association indicate balanced coverage in the alumni magazine [Letters, May–June 2005, May–June 2006, and November–December 2006]. At what point does balanced coverage override the need for objective assessment of opinions?

Minnesota magazine may very well be reporting on global warming more than other relevant topics. However, no other issue in history has likely been studied and scrutinized on a consensus basis as much as the science on global warming. Scientifically, detractors are approaching the realm of those who believe, but can’t produce evidence, that the earth is 6,000 years old. However, the media insists on giving equal time to the small minority, which tells the wrong story to the public.

Bowers mixes uncited research and politics, taken as fact, and would do well to read http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics [an independent environmental journalism Web site] on how to talk to climate change skeptics.

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