Do Newspapers Only Get It Right 50 Percent of the Time?

When my Environmental Policy professor called Al Gore’s global warming book “dangerous” I saw my classmates awake from their dazed, falling asleep in class, drone-states.

“The book [An Inconvenient truth] is based on foggy science,” said Professor Koppelman, a 78-year old WWII veteran and leader of Long Island environmental initiatives. “90 percent of environmental literature is polemics!”

He cautioned against trusting the media and prohibited citing newspapers as sources for the term paper. “They only get it right about 50 percent of the time.”

He also said that a more fitting slogan for The New York Times would be, “All the News That Fits.” “Now, I know none of you are from the School of Journalism,” he added.

That was when I leaned back on my chair and put on a poker face.

Professor Koppelman raises a point: doubt your knowledge and doubt your sources of knowledge. He explained that American newspaper reports on hotspot regions of the globe drastically differed from the reality when he personally visited these regions.

He had one more comment for the term paper asignment: “I don’t want ‘an expert says,’ I want the specific source and the source’s credentials.”

Perhaps news reports should take this to heart. I often get flustered when I see “a report says, an official says, an expert says.” As the reader, how can I independently research and substantiate that claim or dare I say “fact?”


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