|January 5, 2009|
|Obama Promises New Emphasis on Science; CNN Exits Stage|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|The Obama Administration promises to usher in a new era of science, one shaped by high-caliber intellects unlike the hacks and cronies that occupied key positions in the Bush White House. Brownie and the gang won’t be missed. |
The President-elect has nominated Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winner for physics, as Energy Secretary. John Holdren, professor of environmental policy at Harvard, is to be the White House science advisor. Jane Lubchenco, a professor at Oregon State University and the nation’s preeminent oceanographer, will head the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Their intellectual firepower is bound to attract other first-rate minds to government service to tackle global warming and create a “green economy” based on renewables and alternative energy development.
One would think the media would be gearing up in anticipation of the golden age of scientific inquiry. That person would be dead wrong. Take the sad case of CNN, America’s face to the world.
The Time Warner unit disbanded its science operation this month. It axed Peter Dykstra, who headed the Atlanta-based unit, Miles O’Brien, chief technology and environmental reporter, and five producers. CNN says it plans to integrate environmental, science and technology reporting into its general editorial structure. The bulk of its “green” coverage will be offered through its “Planet in Peril” franchise.
CNN’s move is the latest example of dumbing down the media. The network has deservedly drawn the wrath of what’s left of the science media.
Presidents of the World Federation of Science Journalists, Society of Environmental Journalists, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and National Assn. of Science Writers sent a letter of protest December 19 to Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, and Jon Klein president of CNN/U.S.
“The wholesale dismantling of the science unit calls into question CNN’s commitment to bringing the most informative science news to the general public, including the science-minded younger audience,” wrote Pallab Ghosh (WFSJ), Christy George (SEJ), Christine Russell (CASW) and Mariette DiChristina (NASW). The foursome noted: “The environment, energy technology, space exploration and biotechnology are crucial ongoing stories that will have a growing prominence as a new American president takes office and nations confront a wide range of science-based global issues.”
CNN should reconsider its shortsighted decision. The network should be leading the charge into the world of science, not retreating.
CNN’s cutback is difficult to understand in light of its plan to offer a wire service to compete with the Associated Press. What does the pull-back from science say of CNN’s commitment to hard news?
The retreat is not a good selling point to potential clients of the CNN wire. It also diminishes CNN's standing among the international media.
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