Media Bias: How It Works

Sometimes media bias is blatant and grotesque; it can extend to flat misrepresentations, use of fake documents, etc. Much more often, it is relatively subtle, as reporters push their version of a story in small ways, day after day. Here is a textbook example, via Power Line News.
Yesterday, in an interview with the Associated Press, one of the world’s leading weather experts, Dr. William Gray, blasted Al Gore for perpetrating global warming hysteria. Since Dr. Gray is generally recognized as the world’s leading expert in the science of forecasting hurricanes, this is news. But let’s examine how the AP handled it in the article that resulted from their interview. The AP begins in a straightforward manner:

A top hurricane forecaster called Al Gore “a gross alarmist” Friday for making an Oscar-winning documentary about global warming.
“He’s one of these guys that preaches the end of the world type of things. I think he’s doing a great disservice and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Dr. William Gray said in an interview with The Associated Press at the National Hurricane Conference in New Orleans, where he delivered the closing speech.

But watch where the story goes from there. First the subtle demeaning of the distinguished Dr. Gray:

Gray, an emeritus professor at the atmospheric science department at Colorado State University, has long railed against the theory that heat-trapping gases generated by human activity are causing the world to warm.

Gray is implicitly depicted as a crank; he “rails.” Note that the hysterical and ill-informed Gore never “rails.” Further, Gray “has long railed,” which suggests that, rather than being a consistent critic of an unproven theory, he is a tiresome eccentric whose views have been heard and discounted. More on this later. The AP continues:

Gray’s statements came the same day the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change approved a report that concludes the world will face dire consequences to food and water supplies, along with increased flooding and other dramatic weather events, unless nations adapt to climate change.

As we have noted elsewhere, the U.N.’s IPCC is a political body, not a scientific one, and its findings have been subject to withering criticism. But the AP implies that the U.N’s report represents a scientific consensus. Next:

Rather than global warming, Gray believes a recent uptick in strong hurricanes is part of a multi-decade trend of alternating busy and slow periods related to ocean circulation patterns. Contrary to mainstream thinking, Gray believes ocean temperatures are going to drop in the next five to 10 years.

Now it’s explicit. The elderly crank who “rails” and disagrees with the U.N. is not part of “mainstream thinking,” notwithstanding the fact that, as the AP acknowledges, he is the world’s foremost authority on hurricanes.
Now the conclusion: in evaluating media bias, it is always important to see who gets the last word. The AP signs off with a scientist who contradicts Gray’s views:

Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor who had feuded with Gray over global warming, said Gray has wrongly “dug (his) heels in” even though there is ample evidence that the world is getting hotter.

There you have it. Dr. Gray is a fuddy-duddy who “has long railed” and is outside the “mainstream.” He has “dug his heels in” and is so out of date that he tries to dispute the obvious fact that the world is currently getting warmer! The AP is telling us that, however distinguished Gray may be, he can safely be disregarded on this issue.
But wait! Does Dr. Gray really deny the “ample evidence that the world is getting hotter”? Maybe the AP reporter just took Emanuel’s word for it. Maybe he was too lazy to do any research. Maybe he deliberately misled his readers. Through the miracle of Google–do AP reporters know about Google?–it took me approximately 30 seconds to find this interview of Dr. Gray, in which he talked about whether the earth is “getting hotter”:

Q: … is global warming behind this increase in hurricanes?
Gray: I am very confident that it


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