Wednesday, January 21, 2009

We do science, we do

As an ex-scientist/engineer I have a firm belief in the value of this country's support of same.

Hence I was attracted to this article in the Newsnight blog:

Restoring science to its rightful place

Sadly, as the comments in reply (the first is a doozy, especially the end piece. I speak as one trying to forge a commercial model new media entity dealing in the environment, and one day found myself competing with BBC Green) would suggest, it has been found rather wanting.

Science deals in fact, as does... should... reporting. It is hard not to feel this piece was more opinion dressed up. And I do wonder how appropriate it is for a 'reporter' for the BBC to be quite so definitive in her critiques on an outgoing administration when much is still unknown. The optimism for an agent of 'change', whatever that is, is perhaps understandable given the degree of uncritical analysis of the new President's plans to date, but surely should be couched in terms, dare I say science-based ones, that accept it's hard to predict based on what we don't yet know.

Shame the vast majority subjected to the broadcast are unlikely to be exposed to such worthy and relevant debate to appreciate the critical underpinnings of 'science', and not the fluffy, agenda-driven versions too often trotted out by our national broadcaster and its often less than qualified, or if so (Ms. Watts' resume is a lot more relevant than most), barely competent and/or objective cabal of 'analysts'.

I happen to think there is much worth considering seriously in the environmental arena, but as a fact-based environmentalist shudder at each grotesque, rushed-out bit of spin from the BBC that seems designed to push an 'ideal' (at least in their eyes), but when found wanting simply sets back the worthy, public-influencing, patient, test and confirm methodologies that can lead to genuine insights we can act on with confidence.

Harmless Sky - BBC Newsnight - Warming up President Obama’s inaugural speech? - Hmnn

The Newsnight editor has now responded:

Hello All,

Re the opening of Susan's piece. We did edit sections of the speech to reflect the elements in it that referred to Science. The aim was to give people an impression or montage of what Obama said about science in his inauguration speech. This was signposted to audiences with fades between each point. It in no way altered the meaning or misrepresented what the
President was saying. You can look for yourself above.

Apologies for not responding sooner. I thought I had. BBC Editors find this blogging software frustrating at times too.

Peter Rippon
Editor, Newsnight

I am afraid I found his reply wanting:

Hello back. Thank you for at last replying, on behalf of Ms. Watts and all involved in this. And the apology... if only for the delay in reply. I can see how, being the editor of a news programme caught in a sticky situation brought to one's attention in places, such as your own blog, one could forget doing so before now. I wonder what aspect of the blogging software let you down? It seems to have been working fine for quite a while now (or was your first effort 'moderated', which I agree can be 'frustrating'?).

It's a pity how often a BBC reply can often seem more like bringing in some Kimberly diamond miners when it comes to digging a deeper hole.

I don't propose to address the 'techniques' and what they were intended to facilitate, as others have clearly explained how well it went down. Nor do I intend to get into any discussion of climate, 'optimist' or 'pessimist', save to say as one environmentally concerned erring on caution, 'helping the cause along' by rigging things makes me groan as it makes my efforts at factual persuasion all the harder.

However, I do now unfortunately have yet more words and phrases to add to along, growing and rather ignoble list of 'journalistic'/reportage'/'editorial' doublespeak being used in weak post justification, that does the cause of conveying objective news little credit.

So to such as 'interpreting events' I can now, sadly, add...

'... reflect the elements...'

'... give people an impression or montage of what [was] said... about [topic]..]

' This was signposted...'

The first two seem barely more than excuses for changing things to suit. The third simply a weasel for very stealthily enabling/excusing very stealthy editing.

Sorry, not convinced, and it would seem I am not alone. Nil points.

Gaurdian - Newsnight in fakery row over Obama report - The quantity, and quality of the replies show a worrying inisght into the midsets at play.

Telegraph - BBC accused of fakery over Barack Obama inauguration speech

Telegraph - Obama can afford to lay off press officers now the BBC is working for him free of charge

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