From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Why climate experts are criticizing a Hawaii headline from ABC News
Date August 18, 2023 11:30 AM
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Can climate change be blamed for the Maui wildfires? Almost certainly, at least partially. But even if it can’t, it’s far too early to say so. Email not displaying correctly?
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** Why climate experts are criticizing a Hawaii headline from ABC News
This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows burnt areas in the Kula community of the Upcountry region on the Maui island, Hawaii, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, following a wildfire. (Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via AP)

As part of its reporting on the devastating wildfires in Hawaii, ABC News published an article Tuesday with the headline “Why climate change can’t be blamed for the Maui wildfires.”

That headline, which has now been edited to add a hedging “entirely” after “blamed,” topped a story pointing out the lack of attribution studies tying climate change to the wildfires.

Reporter Emily Atkin, who runs the climate crisis-focused newsletter Heated ([link removed]) , went straight to the article’s sources to ask if the headline phrasing accurately reflected their comments. It didn’t.

“Climate change absolutely can be partially blamed for the severity of the Maui disaster because climate change worsens wildfires, and climate change plays a role in literally all weather events,” Atkin said. “We just don’t yet know how much blame, because we don’t yet have attribution studies that can tell us that sort of thing.”

Read the scientists’ full responses, and how Fox News reported on the ABC News edit, over at Atkin’s newsletter Heated ([link removed]) .

One key point: The kind of attribution study that would tie climate change to the wildfires takes much longer to produce than a week. Climate change has been incrementally changing the conditions for weather events, making a definitive denial of its role in these wildfires shortsighted.

This is not solely on ABC’s shoulders. The news media has overarchingly failed to meaningfully put climate change in context in a trend that has only become more apparent as extreme weather events and high temperatures persist globally.

This failure is compounded by a lack of scientific literacy most glaringly on display in morning news show wonder drug segments and other pop-science reporting, but now with existential stakes in the context of the climate crisis.

If anything, this is a reminder that fact-checking goes beyond quoting the correct sequence of words said by a source. It’s about understanding the deeper context, especially when you’re tangling with climate science.

By Annie Aguiar, Poynter audience engagement producer

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** Tell better stories about suicide and gun violence

In advance of Suicide Prevention Month in September, Poynter, and the CDC are teaming up for a webinar that will teach journalists how to use CDC data at the local, state and national level while getting expert advice on covering these sensitive issues with accuracy and nuance.

Read more and enroll now ▸ ([link removed])

** A media bias chart update puts The New York Times in a peculiar position

I’ve always questioned those graphs ranking news outlets based on bias ([link removed]) and reliability.

And the release of Ad Fontes Media’s latest media bias chart ([link removed]) illustrates my skepticism. Most notably, the graph has The New York Times positioned to the left of “TrueAnon,” a Marxist podcast.

Sure, the chart ranks “TrueAnon” as having much lower credibility — the podcast grew out of an exploration of conspiracy theories about Jeffery Epstein’s death — but the bias rating displays the weakness in Ad Fontes’ methodology ([link removed]) . “The Joe Rogan Experience” is considered more centrist than The Wall Street Journal, and “Under the Skin With Russell Brand” is closer to “unbiased” than The Washington Post.

To evaluate most sources, three analysts — one right-leaning, one centrist and one left-leaning — rate articles, episodes or podcasts from each source. For bigger outlets, like The New York Times, they might sift through more than 400, but evaluators typically look at 15 stories. Then the ratings are averaged for the final chart ranking.

In previous Poynter coverage ([link removed]) , Ad Fontes founder Vanessa Otero said that media bias charts are a “tool to help people have a shortcut.” But bias and reliability are incredibly nuanced and complex.

As the director of Poynter’s media literacy arm, MediaWise ([link removed]) , I am always looking for easy tools to help people separate fact from fiction — and sort out bias — on their own. But I’d hesitate to recommend any media bias chart at this point.

By Alex Mahadevan, director of MediaWise at Poynter

** McAfee’s debut

ESPN finally announced a date for the debut of “The Pat McAfee Show.” It will be Sept. 7 — the same day the NFL regular season kicks off. It will air on ESPN, as well as ESPN+ and ESPN’s YouTube channel, weekdays from noon to 2 p.m. Eastern. The third hour of the show will air on ESPN+ and ESPN’s YouTube channel.

The former NFL punter and now immensely popular podcaster signed a five-year deal with ESPN earlier this year for a reported $85 million.

Burke Magnus, president of content at ESPN, said in a statement, “We can’t wait for Pat and his team to bring a fresh new energy to ESPN’s weekday lineup, led by some of the most prominent, creative and authentic voices in sports. ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ will redefine what success looks like across multiple ESPN platforms and will bring a new, contemporary audience to our afternoon time block. It’s a perfect fit.”

McAfee also will continue his role as an analyst on Saturday’s college football pregame show “College GameDay.” ESPN announced that some Friday editions of McAfee’s show will air from the location where “College GameDay” is that weekend.

Speaking of Magnus, he was this week’s guest on the “Sports Media” podcast ([link removed]) hosted by The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch. Magnus talked about a wide range of topics, including the controversial decision to lay off popular NBA analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson.

By Tom Jones, senior media writer

** Chloe Melas to begin new gig at NBC

Chloe Melas is headed to NBC as a new entertainment correspondent after leaving CNN. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the veteran entertainment journalist will begin her new gig next week, covering “the intersection of entertainment, business and culture.” The outlet cites a Thursday memo from Catherine Kim, senior vice president of NBC News editorial.

Melas shared that she was leaving CNN in a post on X ([link removed]) , formerly known as Twitter. “I landed my first job at CNN as a News Assistant right out of college in 2008 and I loved it so much that I returned 7 years later,” Melas wrote. “Last week, this latest professional chapter came to a close. It has truly been a masterclass in journalism@CNN ([link removed]) .”

By Amaris Castillo, Poynter contributor

** Media tidbits and links for your weekend review
* Fox News lost millions of viewers when it fired star host Tucker Carlson in April. Now that the network has a new prime-time lineup in place, has it gained them back? Some, but not all, Jeremy Barr writes for The Washington Post ([link removed]) .
* Poynter’s Amaris Castillo writes “How journalists in Hawaii are covering (and coping with) the Maui wildfires.” ([link removed])
* Poynter’s Annie Aguiar writes “More than 20 resources for navigating change in your media career,” ([link removed]) with tools to survive layoffs, effectively network, hunt for a job and more
* Joseph Dash, a pressman for The Buffalo News, was shot and killed ([link removed]) while riding his bicycle on Monday afternoon. Police are asking residents to share any information they might have.
* Through visceral visual storytelling, The Washington Post’s Reis Thebault, Zoeann Murphy, Whitney Shefte and Mengshin Lin take readers “Inside one man’s harrowing fight out of the Maui fires.” ([link removed])
* The New York Times’ Robert Draper with “For an Atlanta Reporter, a Trump Scoop Long in the Making.” ([link removed])
* In an expansive series of articles, The Washington Post’s Nicole Dungca, Claire Healy and Andrew Ba Tran investigate “What we know about the Smithsonian’s human remains.” ([link removed])
* For The New York Times Magazine, Dashka Slater with “The Instagram Account That Shattered a California High School.” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
* Bring Poynter to Your Newsroom, Classroom or Workplace ([link removed])
* Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media ([link removed]) (Mar., May & Sept. 2024) — Apply by Sept. 8, 2023 ([link removed]) .
* Power of Diverse Voices: Writing Workshop for Journalists of Color ([link removed]) (Nov. 15-18) (Seminar) — Apply by Sept. 15 ([link removed]) .

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
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