Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The dogs of (either) for (or against) are unleashed

Interesting how far and how deep the fallout from the CH4 censure ruling released, as referred to in previous recent posts.

As readers will know, I subscribe to various forums (that, depending on how anal the owners and readers/users are, can be demmed/meant as 'lists').

They can be very valuable, and often inspir spirited debate.

They can also be mean-spirited, as I have again found to my cost (not for the first time... nor will it be the last).

To this:

Re: Ofcom ruling - The Great Global Warming Swindle

Actually both sides claim victory. Channel4 seem to have been let off
on a rather bizarre technicality

"Ofcom's Broadcasting Code requires Channel 4 to show "due
impartiality" on "matters of major political and industrial
controversy and major matters relating to current public policy".
Human hands are driving climate change, Ofcom acknowledges

The last segment of the programme, dealing with the politics of
climate change, broke this obligation, Ofcom judged, and did not
reflect a range of views, as required under the code.

But the main portion of the film, on climate science, did not breach
these rules.

Ofcom's logic is that "the link between human activity and global
warming... became settled before March 2007".

This being so, it says, climate science was not "controversial" at
the time of broadcast, so Channel 4 did not break regulations by
broadcasting something that challenged the link.

"That's a very big inconsistency," said Sir John Houghton. "They said
it's completely settled, so why worry - so they can just broadcast
any old rubbish." "


I replied thus:

'...so they can just broadcast any old rubbish."

Indeed. But I despair of any rational, objective and especially accurate reporting from just about anyone these days, be it from perverse agenda, a desire for ratings or just plain rubbish standards.

I was watching BBC News this morning about some Green Motor show and although it was fluff as a result of claims made had to write in twice:

H2...oh? - I am a big fan of the potential of hydrogen as an automotive fuel, and fully accept that it is mainly water that comes out the exhaust pipe (which is good at point of release) but is it true to say a car using it is 'zero emission'? I think it may have some consequence as the car and fuel still needs to be made.

Declan: 'Green cars... ...Without the environmental cost' Without... or reduced? They are different.

There are too many people deciding for the public who are, IMHO, not that well placed to lay claim to the role, often with those above them with some very odd notions on what 'is best'. Often with a target of some rather dubious green profit forecast as their guide than what is best for my kids.

It is a sad state affairs when I now take much from the state broadcaster, especially when broadcasting matters of state, with at best a pinch of salt on such critical issues as climate, worthy reductions & mitigations, etc. And across all other major media, especially print, the lines are pretty clearly drawn... with sniping mainly from very extreme corners that serve those in the middle ground poorly served for worthwhile subjective argument let alone objective fact. And the tabloids really only care if they can scream about either a disaster, jobsworth-abuse or score a PR-partnership for a week 'til a minor royal has a blonde moment.

Hence I tend to navigate around many sources to try and get to a middle ground, but boy does it do your head in trying.

To which I had this, shared with all:

Perhaps surprisingly, reporting on technical stuff is not as easy as it looks since it involves maintaining your contact base (ie not completely enraging them so they don’t take your calls) while interpreting complex scientific matters while not attempting to engage a reader who’d prefer to be reading the football while keeping your editor and (sometimes sales people) happy. All this is done to deadline with minimal resources.

Give it a whirl and let me know how you get on.

Fair dos. But I did sense a ceratin critique not such much to my argument as to my abilities, so I replied:

Well if I did at the moment under the guise of being an objective seeker of truth I'd say it might well be a case of two wrongs making an even bigger mess.

Which is why I tend to steer clear of absolutes and stating things as fact when they might not be. These things can come back to pull rugs.

But you know, given sufficient resources, staff, researchers, access to expert input, and holding true to some journalistic and editorial integrity, plus a bit of honesty and humility, I might be tempted to give it a go one day.

And I'd like to think that I'd lay out the facts and issues as I know them, to the best of my ability, and get them proofed and checked at every stage. And invite the reader to join me on a journey of mutual discovery where all opinion, if well thought through and shared in a civilised manner, is welcome. So even hard and fast rules can evolve.

Until then, I guess I'll have to live with what the current, and unlikely to improve circumstances (as they have spiralled downhill) you describe throws up.

Seems hardly satisfactory. Maybe you are right. Best not to express an opinion. Doesn't do much good. I made my suggestions to the BBC at about 7am. They were still running with what I believed to be inaccurate/misguided information by the end of the show.

Was I incorrect?

All seems a bit like brooking no critique of the Captain of the Exxon Valdez by suggesting to a miffed Alaskan that he tries steering a supertanker whilst merry.

And as I had been invited (challenged), I then added this:

Ah, a shared love of writing.

Mine is, perhaps, for now, less professional (I don't get paid - and I was going to be flip about what such as Clarkson or Liddle do find in his wallet, but I don't smoke and like my hair short. And while I often respect their commitments to good journalistic standards in going deep and not being afraid to feast on the odd sacred cow, I despair that writers of such calibre have sold out to ratings (and their rewards) by such shock-jock, rabble-rousing idiocies as running over cyclists being a sensible comment to pass) in my latest chosen area of interest, but it doesn't stop me. So we have that in common as well.
Give it a whirl and let me know how you get on.

Actually, I have... er.. do on occasion, when the mood takes.

Let me see, bearing my soul... and exposed underbelly, how about this...


Didn't claim it was definitive, but gave it my best shot.

How'd I do? My scorecard (heavily biased mind)

reporting on technical stuff is not as easy - agreed
as it looks since it involves maintaining your contact base (ie not completely enraging them so they don’t take your calls) - must have been lucky with mine so far
while interpreting complex scientific matters while not attempting to engage a reader who’d prefer to be reading the football - OK, I'll concede my audience might be more empathetic
while keeping your editor - he's a nice guy, honest:) And for now likes things that way.
and (sometimes sales people) happy - ah, well, a man can dream of a day when the sales director bursts in and says 'So what if we have 2M guys who trust what you write... I've negotiated a spread sponsored by Porsche, so you must say the Cayenne Turbo is the best in its class for emissions!!! And I then say... no (unless it is).'
All this is done to deadline with minimal resources - er...tick... and, tick.

I'm guessing not all are written as the reader might hope or imagine. But I'm sure you know better than I.

OK, I was being... at tad... sarky, and while it's no excuse 'he did start it'.

But now I have this, currently off forum, direct:

Is that post really appropriate on a list of over 700 members?

Does it inform?

Who benefitted from you sending that to us all, rather than off-list to Michael?

Please, have some courtesy.

To which I am sorely tempted to reply with this:

Is that post really appropriate on a list of over 700 members?

I thought so. You think not. If not appropriate to some I guess it is worth asking. I wonder what the other 698 think. Are you an owner... or moderator*?

If it breached any rules I am sorry and would not repeat it, if allowed to stay. If so, what might they be?

Does it inform?

If you refer to my last, it most certainly did, especially anyone interested in plastic bags.

And, perhaps, those keen to see me try and answer the question... challenge posted to me as an individual, admittedly as a result of my being concerned in general terms at the levels of journalism to which the public is exposed. Interestingly I did not disagree with anyone here, but a view, and it has led to this, so quickly.

Who benefitted from you sending that to us all, rather than off-list to Michael?

I trust you demanded the same of him first. But then this did arise as a result of interesting interpretations of two wrongs...

Please, have some courtesy.

I fear I fail to see the lack of courtesy, especially when much more blatant examples of its lack are prevalent on this 'list' that I simply delete if they do not appeal.

But then consistency does not seem to be a strong suit on occasion.

* If not, I suggest you call for me to be censured.

Now, should I?

I do confess, the level of heat directed, personally, at those who do not toe the line, especially party line group thinks on so-called sustainable blogs, is a real worry.

Addendum: I have now had this, off forum, from the initial challenger:

A blog – even a fine, upstanding and popular one such as yours – is a completely different thing from journalism. I’m not saying better or worse, just different and not comparable.

To which I have replied, in the same manner. I hope addressing some possible inherent inconsistencies in tone and fact in a courteous manner:

Thanks for the compliment, if sincere. As to your following statement it is an interesting distinction, and one I'd like to have debated, but no longer in such circumstances.

I have also been written to 'off list' by someone who suggests, amongst some other views I really cannot agree with or subscribe to, that I was discourteous, though whether he meant to the list or just you I am not sure.

If the former I am sure he has written to you too (by virtue of your writing direct now I suspect yes - I am having some trouble assessing what is and is not deemed acceptable for mass broadcast and what is not. It cannot be matters of extensive philosophical musings vs. factual shares if recent post are anything to go by. So I'll for now go with 'inconsistent', erring on don't cross the group ethos... whatever that is. I believe in sustainability but often don't with the way it is advocated, practiced or preached ). However if only the latter it seems I may yet need to respond to those I may have offended.

I did not set out to be and hence do not think I was discourteous, but it is possible by my responding to a challenge in the spirit of healthy debate it may have come across that way, in which case I apologise.

But I also fear that, while this list still has its uses as a source of information and even worthy opinion, if I get targeted off list by those who do not like certain views or my right to express them, then its use is now seriously curtailed.

Addendum - Separate to my little local difficulty, a few other posters have engaged in what can most charitably be called philosophical discussions and/or disagreements. As it was limited to a small group I quickly learned to scan and delete and move on.

Now the group is tearing itself apart. There are the pompous literalists calling for all sorts of 'measures', my nemesis suggesting the chosen ones move to another group he is part of 'where only the right sort of poster and post is allowed', and a few wondering what the heck all the fuss is about. It is these latter I feel the most sorry for, and wonder to what extent they represent a noisy few from a silent majority who will simply give up as a result of the smugs and bullies. Especially those who feel that having an alternative opinion is not to be tolerated.

A sad, small, metaphor for where we are still?

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