Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Rupert Post - The Second

I can't find a link to it right now, but I am sure that I have heard someone, probably former Murdoch editor Bruce Guthrie, explain that Rupert Murdoch's editorial control was not overtly a matter of directing editors what he wants them to run; it is more a matter of Rupert expressing his general feel on an issue, and then newspaper editors doing a "pre-emptive fold" to slant coverage to the way they think Murdoch might approve.

This has been on my mind ever since Rupert took to Twitter, and very early on in the piece, praised Matt Ridley's book The Rational Optimist, which has been most noted for its "meh, climate change probably isn't that big an issue after all" attitude.

I've been waiting for the "pre-emptive fold" ever since, and I take the Wall Street Journal's publishing of a letter by 16 prominent skeptics part of this. (Not that the WSJ ever needed much prompting to run with climate change skepticism.)

Today, I see that The Australia re-prints the letter, just in case people here haven't already heard about it.

Fold, fold away, opinion editors.

And perhaps let someone note that the article is outrageously dishonest in one key section, at the very least:

The piece completely misrepresented my work. My work has long taken the view that policies to slow global warming would have net economic benefits, in the trillion of dollars of present value. This is true going back to work in the early 1990s (MIT Press, Yale Press, Science, PNAS, among others). I have advocated a carbon tax for many years as the best way to attack the issue. I can only assume they either completely ignorant of the economics on the issue or are willfully misstating my findings.

UPDATE: for a very detailed take down of the letter, have a look at the Skeptical Science post about it.

UPDATE 2: Andy Revkin, who first publicised Nordhaus' complaint about how the letter misrepresented his views, has another post about the letter, and the rebuttal, which takes a very soft line on the scientists involved. He seems strangely un-inclined to note the lack of expertise in the area under discussion, just noting that "most of the authors in both camps are scientists."

UPDATE 3: I still can't work out where I got "pre-emptive fold" from (maybe a radio interview), but here is Guthrie writing about Murdoch in the context of News Ltd paper's coverage of the Labor government here:
Either way, it certainly wouldn't have been a direction. That's not Murdoch's style. It would more likely have been an observation expressed by him or a lieutenant during or after dinner or at a coffee break between sessions. His editors, better than most at reading the wind, would have noted the boss's latest leanings and applied this knowledge at the first opportunity - many of them would have arrived back in Australia the morning of the budget lock-up. Of course, it would be open to an editor to ignore the boss's preferences, but as I discovered, that can sometimes come at a cost.

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