Sometimes it’s baffling that the United States, unlike most of the world, continues to have a persistently large population of climate change deniers. But, then, you see something like this—a preposterously misleading commentary on climate change that ran on KETK, the NBC affiliate in Tyler—and you begin to understand why. The two-minute segment, which ran on Friday, was billed as “Global Warming, Laughable” and featured the commentary of KETK News Director Neal Barton. The piece is riddled with factual errors, bizarre assertions and it cites an obscure scientist and a committee of the United Kingdom House of Commons. Oh, and it’s also plagiarized from a British newspaper. Basically, Barton read portions of a story from the Yorkshire Evening Post on his “POV” segment, passing the views off as his own.
The story (or in this case, a text version of what aired) opens innocently enough:
Recently, a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its first report in seven years on the now widely accepted phenomenon known as “climate change.”
For the record, the IPCC is the global authority on climate science, consisting of hundreds of climate authorities from dozens of countries. The panel’s recent findings call climate change “unequivocal” and warn of dire effects from sea-level rise, wildfires, flood and drought.
But then, Barton’s POV takes an abrupt (far-right) turn away from the broad scientific mainstream into a kind-of false-balance upside-down world.
But, one teacher says it’s all bunk and you won’t hear this on the mainstream media. So I’m glad to serve equal time.
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published a report, damning the media for confusing ‘fact’ with opinion and pushing the message that, in terms of freak weather, ‘the worst is yet to come.’
Yeah, sure it is.
Barton doesn’t mention that the House of Commons is a British institution. But more important, he gets the committee’s report completely wrong. The report, in fact, laments that the public is misinformed on what scientists know about climate change, and criticizes the media in the UK—the BBC in particular—for scientific inaccuracy and relying on “experts” with an agenda. Which is precisely what Barton does. So he says in his commentary:
Emeritus Professor Les Woodcock goes against the grain and when a reporter asks the former NASA scientist about “climate change” and “global warming,” he laughs.
He says the term “climate change” is meaningless. The Earth’s climate has been changing since the Earth was formed 1,000 million years ago. The theory of “man-made climate change” is an unsubstantiated hypothesis [about] our climate [which says it] has been adversely affected by the burning of fossil fuels in the last 100 years, causing the average temperature on the Earth’s surface to increase very slightly, but with disastrous environmental consequences..
Notably, Professor Woodcock gets the age of Earth wrong. it’s not 1 billion years old, it’s about 4.54 billion. But, then, why is Barton quoting a British professor when the U.S. has most of the world’s prominent climate denialists? I emailed Barton yesterday to ask about some of his claims and he sent me a link to a news article in the Yorkshire Evening Post, one of the leading newspapers of Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. Which is kind of a weird thing to do because, as it turns out, nearly every word of Barton’s commentary is lifted verbatim from the Yorkshire Evening Post story, which ran in February, including the quote from Woodcock. The only difference is that Barton noticeably pauses over the word “reproducible” twice, and then skips over it. He also adds a few choice interjections (“Amen sir”).
I asked Barton in an email about his apparent plagiarism.
“We’ve only been keeping records for 100 years,” he responded. “I was told this when I did tv weather 30-years ago. That’s was before I went through 40 hours of college meteorology. I was told this by meteorologist who trained me. They were absolutely right then—and now. The Evening Post was right on it.”
I asked him if it was appropriate to plagiarize in a commentary.
He responded (spacing in the original):
I attributed right from the article.
I said where I got it from.
Plagiarism is just saying here is what I think and never mentioned where you found it.
I cite articles all the time.
Of course it’s ok in a commentary.
It’s the basis many times for the commentary.
That’s where you start.
You agree or sometimes disagree.
This is not the first time Barton, or KETK, has run into controversy. In 2010, Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy criticized the station for its cheerleading of a tea party event in Tyler that featured Glenn Beck and Rick Perry. The reporter responsible for that report explained to StinkyJournalism.com, “The TV station I work for, and I don’t necessarily agree, has taken a right-wing approach.”
But Barton explained that KETK is “right on track with our coverage of the Tea Party.”