How the New York Times allowing a climate change skeptic to be an Op-Ed writer became the biggest debate, regarding journalistic integrity, on social media.
Last week the “New York Times” unveiled Bret Stephens’ first Op-Ed. Many on Twitter didn’t take it so well:
The idea that an opinion writer is allowed to be objectively wrong (and boring) because it's the opinion section is baffling.
— Sean Lavery (@SeanLavery) April 29, 2017
For those that don’t know, Bret Stephens has a, to put it lightly, sketchy past when it comes to his arguments against climate change. As a climate change skeptic, he has compared climate change activism to worshiping “a religion without a God.” He has also been known to make declarative statements regarding climate change, while providing little-to-no scientific evidence. In fact, it’s been proven on multiple instances that his assumptions on climate change to be just plain incorrect!
Not surprisingly, many readers of the “New York Times” are concerned regarding the new hire. Over the weekend, a debate started to surface on whether it was ok for the “New York Times” – an incredibly respected journalistic institution – to hire someone like Stephens for the sake of issue diversity. As we tend to do, we decided to look at both sides of the debate in this installment of Point/Counter-Point.
Point: In this political climate, Bret Stephens writing regularly for the traditionally liberal leaning New York Times is essential to bridging political polarization!
— Jonathan Weisman (@jonathanweisman) April 29, 2017
We live in the age of political silos. This isn’t as much of an opinion, as it’s fact!
Instead of holding fiery debates that lead to the exchange of ideas, we create these insulated political ecosystems for ourselves. Propped up by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, we form our opinions through echo chambers, creating a selection bias on every piece of information that we consume. As a nation, our polarization has created a political climate that we can’t see eye-to-eye on anything. I don’t have to tell you; this helps no one!
All the New York Times has done with hiring Bret Stephens as an Op-Ed columnist is attempt to break through these echo chambers and present a different point-of-view to their readers that usually they aren’t privy to. All too often, Op-Ed pieces in major news outlets just echo the same sentiments that their readers have heard a thousand times. Over time, debatable ideas become set in stone by hearing the same point-of-view continuously. All the New York Times is trying to do is combat against that.
There is no doubt that Stephens doesn’t fit the usual New York Times columnist – he’s an Establishment Conservative that is skeptical about climate change and critical of the Black Lives Matter movement – but that’s exactly the point! A good Op-Ed section at any news outlet should present a variety of opinions. While some opinions will fall in line to what their readers believe, others should be contradictory! Only through varying viewpoints do you gain a holistic perspective on any issue.
With the hiring of Stephens, the New York Times isn’t trying to trivialize the beliefs that are held by their audience, they’re only trying to expand and strengthen them!
Counter-Point: With the hiring of Bret Stephens, the New York Times not only hurts their credibility as a journalistic institution, but they also give credence to a point-of-view that science has proven wrong!
The Truth Is More Important Now Than Ever, Except If You're Reading Our Op-Ed Page pic.twitter.com/1bWM9IPM1k
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 28, 2017
The problem with the New York Times hiring Bret Stephens isn’t that he’s Conservative. David Brooks has been a conservative voice at the New York Times for years, and last that I heard, no one has canceled their subscription over him being associated with the news outlet. The objection over Stephens being their new Op-Ed columnist stems from his incorrect assumptions on climate change that have been scientifically been proven to be bullshit! So with his hiring, all the New York Times has done is given legitimacy to his false/incorrect arguments on climate change!
Based of Stephens’ past pieces regarding climate change at outlets like the Wall Street Journal, it’s clear that he uses terrible arguments and incorrect assumptions when defending his position as a climate change skeptic. Lazy arguments like “if climate change activists believe it’s so catastrophic, why are they having children” and climate change being an “imaginary enemy” of the left, are littered throughout his past work. Even such absurd statements as the planet’s temperature being the same 100 years from now, while presenting zero scientific evidence behind that statement, is not only wrong, but incredibly dangerous.
Whether the New York Times realizes it or not, by showcasing Stephens’ writing, they’re giving legitimacy to his false views. A job of any news organization is to give proper context to particular issues and stories. Even the Op-Ed section of the newspaper should be held to that high standard. By the New York Times promoting Stephens’ views on climate change, they are knowingly framing that argument with false information! By giving credibility to unfair/incorrect assumptions regarding the science of climate change, they are doing a disservice to their audience when it comes to understanding that subject.
While presenting a multitude of differing views is healthy for any news organization, legitimizing false science in the name of objectivity is just irresponsible. And that’s exactly what the New York Times is doing with Stephens.
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