“Some of the Worst” News Media

Who or what publication deserves to be regarded as the worst news media outlet in the country (or the world)? Chances are it is the one in your nearest metro area. Wait—how can that possibly be? I dunno, but if we ask the media, this is likely the answer they’d come up with.

About 15 years ago I co-authored a book about air pollution and the Clean Air Act. I know—you’ll just have to contain your excitement. One of the things we found was an example of what might be called the reverse Lake Wobegone Effect, i.e., according to local media every local area had “some of the worst” air pollution in the whole country! Every metro area was below average! Of course, if every place has “some of the worst” of anything, then no place really does (as the government’s air quality data bear out*).

Some samples from the book:

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago has “some of the worst air pollution in the nation.” The Dallas-Fort Worth area has “some of the country’s worst air,” claims the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The Baltimore Sun says Baltimore has “some of the worst air pollution in the country,” as well. The New York metropolitan area? “Some of the country’s dirtiest air,” according to the Westchester Journal News. Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has “some of the worst air pollution in the country.” The Washington Post puts not only the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area but also Phoenix in the “some of the worst air pollution” fraternity.

Sometimes it is entire states that have “some of the worst air pollution.” New Jersey, the Bergen Record says, has “some of the worst air pollution in the country.” But just across the Hudson River the New York Times claims not only that the state of New York “has some of the nation’s dirtiest air,” but that “the smog in Connecticut is among the worst in the nation.” Tennessee experiences “some of the worst air pollution in America,” according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Maryland is “faced with some of the worst air pollution in the country,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

Did all these news outlets arrive at these claims through original reporting and consulting the EPA data? Yes, I jest, so you can stop laughing. Actual EPA data shreds these claims, but environmental advocacy groups (especially the American Lung Association’s annual “state of the air” report) produce cookie-cutter press releases claiming that each local area suffers “some of the worst” pollution in America, and the media dutifully repeats these claims. This is why most environmental “reporters” are really just stenographers for environmentalists. This ought to be embarrassing for any serious editor or publisher, but there aren’t many serious editors or publishers any more.

Now we have a sequel to pass along, courtesy of WattsUpWithThat. Local media are reporting that their local area is warming faster than the world! And if every local area is warming faster than the world, then the world is warming faster than itself, as the summary headline shows:

* As an example, this 20-year old chart of days above the federal ozone standard from our book shows that the claim that LA and San Francisco have “the same smog problems” is nonsense:

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