A couple months ago my friend Daniel asked me about how scientists were responding to the following Fox News article, Arctic sea ice up 60 percent in 2013. The article points out that the minimum extent of arctic sea ice increased dramatically by more than a million square miles from 2012, reversing the trend of ice loss, and now some scientists are worried about global cooling.
Before I responded, I looked up the data the article was based on from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Here is the figure from that report.
As you can see, the article is technically correct. Compared to 2012 (the all-time lowest year on record), 2013 was a bumper year for ice. On the other hand, if this is how Fox News reads long-term trends, let's be glad they're not in the financial sector.
So my question is, did the authors see this figure and really think it represented a recovery, or did they intentionally misrepresent the trend? I believe that people can look at the same data and honestly arrive at very different conclusions (Taylor Swift and Mackelmore both know what the Bieber has done but they don't agree on whether he should be deported). However, that is a very different phenomenon than intentionally pitching a twisted story.
My friend Martin, the famous walrus researcher (as famous as you can get studying walrus I suppose), got a flurry of inquiries about this article, including from several high-ups in local and state government. A report that clearly confirmed the trend of decreasing sea ice, identifying 2013 as the 6th lowest on record, and noted that ice was more than a 1.5 million square miles below average, became a propaganda tool denying the reality of human-caused climate change with a wave of the magic mass media wand.
So again, my question is, who or what is perpetuating (or perpetrating) this bad journalism? Is it simply news agencies headlining to increase sales, editors catering to the world-views of their audience or sponsors, or is it a symptom of too much or too little regulation of what can be called journalism? I don't have an answer but I'd love to hear what you think. Comment fast before the globe cools down and the internet turns off.