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The PJ Tatler

by
Patrick Richardson

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February 21, 2012 - 3:06 pm

The story circling the blogosphere this week is that libertarian think tank the Heartland Institute founded and partially funded by our own Koch brothers (they’re from Kansas, and Koch Industries is in Wichita) had revealed they were making stuff up in their fight against the cult of man-caused global warming.

As my friend and colleague Charlie Martin wrote earlier;

“Heartland Institute (insert Phantom of the Opera music, pictures of bats, and a reference to the Koch Brothers) ‘whistleblower’ had revealed ‘Heartland Institute’s budget, fundraising plan, its Climate Strategy for 2012 and sundry other documents (all attached) that prove all of the worst allegations that have been leveled against the organization.’”

There was only one problem — it would appear the one document which showed they were lying has been forged and the rest of the documents were stolen by a Huffington Post writer who is a longtime advocate for global warming.

Peter H. Gleick claims he’d been forwarded the strategy documents by an anonymous source and “in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.”

Let’s be clear here. What he did is theft. Hidden camera investigations are always on ethically shaky ground, as journalists are not supposed to represent themselves as anything but who and what we are in order to gather information. Hidden camera investigations are only used when there is no other way to get the story and the story is of enough importance to override the questionable nature of the tactics.

There is no situation in which it is acceptable to commit fraud — and make no mistake, that’s what Gleick did — in order to get a story.
That’s aside from the federal charges and lawsuit sources tell me he’s facing for the forged document as well.

Here’s the thing. Whichever side of the global warming debate you’re on, you deserve to be able to trust the people reporting on it. Actually the biggest asset any journalist has is his credibility. It’s vital that our readers be able to trust us.

What Gleick did is to violate that trust. His credibility is destroyed.

It’s sad, really.

As journalists, we are not well liked or respected generally. As a group we have really done a job on our prestige in this country. No one really believes we can be trusted to tell the truth any more.

For someone who has always regarded this profession as a calling, it’s frustrating.

I was taught that we have an important responsibility — not just to inform the public, but to act as a final check on the government.

So many of my colleagues are acting as the propaganda arm of the current administration and are so often caught plagiarizing, or simply making stories up from whole cloth, it’s killing a profession I’ve long considered a noble way to spend your life.

My colleagues, please, remember your ethics, remember your responsibilities. It’s not too late to restore public trust and confidence in our calling — it will just take time.

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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