Okay – I'm really curious about this one. You may have seen that over the past couple of days, a campaign has been building, encouraging New York Times subscribers to cancel their subscriptions. Why? Because the paper has brought on a 'climate agnostic' (his words; many, many others are describing him in varying ways!) as a columnist.
Background (skip this if you've already heard about it)
The paper has defended its decision to bring columnist Bret Stephens on, citing 'millions' who agree with him. Perhaps as disappointing are the broad brushstroke inferences of the NYT's public editor in making such a defence. (There are signs of dissent within the paper's other staff, as seen on social media.)
This article at HuffPo sums the controversy up fairly concisely.
Stephens's views and his past comments are not just at the expense of climate science: he has made dismissive statements about the veracity of facts about Arabs, Black Lives Matter and campus rape too. That does not bode well for him either, although I guess I'm still most interested in the climate issue, because it paints a complex enough quandary for what to do. (Stephens's first column for the Times is here, though I don't recommend it – it's simply not very good, rigorous or interesting.)
I think it's fair to say that facts play a role, and Stephens is clearly wrong about many of his claims. More concerning is his disinterest in ever being wrong – an intellectually crucial quality in any respectable thinker, left right or upside-down, in my wearied opinion. But I'm a little torn. There is a part of me that is very confused:
• The paper made a big deal (and ad campaign), post-Trump, of standing against 'alternative facts' and fake news – garnering them a lot of new subscribers in the process;
• The US coastal media elite have been hand-wringing over how they screwed up coverage of the 2016 presidential election, and trying to break out of their 'bubble';
• The public editor in particular has been quite heated in her accusations against those disagreeing with Stephens' hiring.
So – what should a paper do? How should a paper reach more people – will Stephens even reach new audiences for them, or simply troll and/or influence their existing ones? – and cover a 'wider range of views' in this apparently crucial moment? And should readers exercise a boycott, or continue to lend their support to the otherwise (apparently) very strong climate and environment reporting it otherwise undertakes?
I would love to hear what you think, and help me figure this out a little more.