NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 2, 2004

The media has developed a reputation for sensationalizing environmental myths and ignoring basic science in their reporting, says Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Whether it is motivated by politics, sensationalism, arrogance or ignorance, Murray says journalists the world over are painting a misleading picture of the environment:

  • In 1995, the New York Times ran a front-page story warning nuclear-waste materials stored in Nevada might explode, a view dismissed by Los Alamos researchers as far-fetched and in any event would not occur for thousands of years.
  • In 2004, the Tampa Tribune has ran no less than 119 articles suggesting a local phosphate plant presents health hazards to those in close proximity, despite Florida?s independent scientific review stating otherwise.

The media has also suspiciously changed its tune on a number of environmental issues:

  • In 1987, the Washington Post editorialized the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve is "one of the bleakest, remote places on this continent" but by 2000, the paper described the area as a "unique, wild, and biologically vital ecosystem."
  • In 2001, the media decried Bush's return to "old" arsenic standards, yet said nothing when such "dangerous" standards were embraced for eight years under the Clinton administration before they were changed only during the last few days of the administration.

Murray concludes, "When journalists are happy enough to junk the well-established scientific tools that help us separate truth from fiction in favor of their own methods, there's a problem."

Source: Iain Murray, "Green Grow the Pressies," Competitive Enterprise Institute, July 2004.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues