reporter Ron Seely is this year’s recipient of the David R. Brower Award, given annually by the The Sierra Club to a journalist for his or her “outstanding
environmental coverage.” Seely undoubtedly was honored to accept the award and happy
to hang it on his trophy wall. But to me there’s something troubling about this
seemingly-innocuous episode, which highlights the near-total demolition of any wall
of separation between “environmental journalism” and environmental activism.
We’ve all heard about the scourge of “yellow journalism.” But these days it’s the green media news consumers should be wary of.
Let's ignore for now the question of who David Brower was and what kind of role model he makes for journalists. Any review of Brower's story and statements shows that he embodied few qualities a professional journalist should emulate. Let's skip over, as well, the rather ironic fact that Brower was at one point drummed-out of the club, by no lesser a light than Ansel Adams, over ideological differences and alleged financial improprieties.
Today let's just imagine the outcry that would result if the energy industry began handing out journalism awards. No credible journalist would accept such a dubious "honor," for obvious reasons. Liberal pundits would howl in derision at the audacity of Evil Oil trying to pollute the purity of American newsrooms. Enviros would completely freak-out. The recipient would continue his or her career, if she or he still had one, under a constant cloud of suspicion.
Ron Seely wouldn’t think of accepting an award for energy-related writing from BP or Exxon-Mobile. That he’ll gladly take one from the rabidly anti-fossil fuel Sierra Club -- a charter member of America's booming Environmental Anxiety Industry -- highlights a troubling double standard that further blurs distinctions between journalism and activism. That most journalists evidently don’t see The Sierra Club as part of a powerful political lobby, with an agenda that’s due the same journalistic detachment, scrutiny and skepticism any other special interest group is, makes the blind spot (and bias) obvious.
Most of today's "environmental journalists" seem like environmentalists first and journalists a distant second. Alert readers readily detect this just by reading the tone of reporting on that beat. Almost every major news shop now has an environmental beat blogger on staff, whose work product rarely differs from what Big Green's press peeps churn out, making the latter group almost superfluous.
It's just one of the reasons I long ago dropped my membership in the Society of Environmental Journalists, which has become another news industry auxiliary of Big Green, to no one’s apparent alarm. These days, it's as if The Sierra Club has a presence in every newsroom, which routinely tilts coverage in favor of the extreme green position.
This can also be seen, if one wants further evidence, in the intolerance toward climate skeptics (now routinely derided as “deniers" by many journalists) that a growing number of supposed news organizations are showing, with some effectively banning all expression of doubt and dissent – all deviations from climate change orthodoxy – from their pages. The Los Angeles Times has led the purge by banning climate skeptics from their “opinion” pages.
News people naturally will deny this bias, like they deny every other obvious bias, but the fact that no one in professional journalism questions or condemns colleagues for accepting The David Brower Award shows that this is a blind spot betraying a double standard, confirming a bias.