Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Jack Lessenberry

Story about climate change e-mails should have run

David Haase of Whitehouse has a beef with The Blade. Why, he wonders, hasn't the newspaper covered the story about the stolen e-mails from climate-researchers in Great Britain?

Last month, somebody apparently hacked into the e-mail server of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain and posted more than 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents.

That is criminal behavior and in this case appeared to have a political motivation. The unit is one of the United Kingdom's leading climate research centers and supports, as most scientists do, the notion that global warming is real and has human causes.

However, some are interpreting some of the hacked e-mails and documents - or, more properly, what the hackers claim are authentic records - as proving some conspiracy to commit fraud.

Specifically, some of those who don't believe that global warming exists are charging that the e-mails show that the scientists doctored the data to try to fraudulently show that there is such a thing as global warming. Most of the attention has centered on a 10-year-old e-mail in which Phil Jones, the director of the research center, talks of "adding in the real temps to … hide the decline."

David Haase complains that The Blade ignored this story and thus "failed to impartially report the news so that the public may be informed and shape its own opinion," something he says "significantly diminishes The Blade's credibility and calls into questions its ethics, in my view."

Your ombudsman thinks Mr. Haase is right about one thing; The newspaper should have run coverage of this story. A search of back issues of the newspaper turned up no mention of the controversy, other than an editorial and an aside in a column by Ann McFeatters.

However, it is not clear to me why The Blade dropped the ball here, and I have been unable to find an editor who knows the answer.

One possibility is that the early stories were confusing, and based on allegations made about material that was illegally obtained. Plus, nobody really knows whether all of these materials are actually valid or whether this is another "Hitler's Diary" style hoax. The university is refusing to say either way.

Nor do we know the context behind many of these ancient e-mails. Given that, I would be reluctant to publish them too, without a whole lot of background and explanatory material.

Most of us have said silly things and sent silly e-mails.

Once, in response to some playful argument over a dinner menu, I sent a friend an e-mail saying: "This means global thermonuclear war." What it really meant was that I wanted blueberry pie.

The newspaper should, however, have put together a story explaining the e-mail controversy once it began drawing international attention. The paper should have noted also that no serious scientific experts think that any of the material illegally posted calls into question the validity of global warming.

An anonymous reader was unhappy with The Blade's coverage of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's recent visit to Toledo. Writer Tom Troy's story included this sentence: "… at the United Auto Workers' Local 12 hall, he [Jackson] had a crowd of about 80 union representatives, ministers, and Democratic politicians repeating after him, 'Save the workers! Save the families! Jobs now! Rebuild America! …"

The reader felt that The Blade neglected its duty by failing to report the names of all the elected officials who were there.

Your ombudsman disagrees. If Mr. Troy had tried to run around and get all those names, he wouldn't have been able to pay attention to the speech - and even then, he might have missed somebody. Jesse Jackson is no longer a candidate for office.

Mr. Jackson's message and that he came here to deliver it were the story, not who came out to see him. Unless, of course, he drew an unexpected crowd of conservative Republicans, say.

Now that would have been news. But he was expected to draw the sort of folks he evidently did. To list all of their names wouldn't have been a prudent use of time or space, both of which are finite.

Anyone who has a concern about fairness or accuracy in The Blade is invited to write me, c/o The Blade, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660, or at my Detroit office, 563 Manoogian Hall, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202; call me at 1-888-746-8610, or e-mail me at I cannot promise to address every question in the newspaper, but I do promise that everyone who contacts me with a serious question will get a personal reply. Reminder, however: If you don't leave me an e-mail address or a phone number, I have no way to get in touch with you.

Jack Lessenberry is a member of the journalism faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former national editor of The Blade.

Click to comment

Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem?

Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet.

Copyright © 2018 Toledo Blade

To Top

Fetching stories…