Many journalists, after presenting the information they have gathered, must plod through a sea of public comments and criticisms about how their article is pushing a hidden agenda.
Kenneth Chang has been a science reporter for The New York Times since 2000. His lecture at Western Michigan University on Nov. 21 addressed media bias through the topic of global warming and climate change.
“Climate change is not a controversy,” Chang said. “We all know that it is occurring.”
The lecture consisted of Chang referring to different articles he wrote and co-wrote that focused on climate change. The topics included connecting global warming to the Arctic ice, hurricanes, and wild fires.
According to Chang, the Arctic ice had been reported to be up 60 percent. However, the amount of ice found in the Arctic is still below average. It is also significantly less than what was seen in the 1970s and the 1980s.
Chang also stated that, although the warmer waters should be more prone to start hurricanes, the warmer weather is decreasing the number of storms. This is because the increase in temperature changes the way the wind moves. In turn, the wind will be more likely to blow apart the storm before it escalates. According to Chang, there is no definite connection between hurricanes and global warming.
“It is hard to say what is caused by global warming and what is just nature,” Chang said.
According to Chang, there has not been enough of a rise in temperature since 2000 to be a significant factor. Though studies and speculation link global warming to the human dependencies on fossil fuels, Chang believes that it is too early to tell.
Chang addressed the complaints that journalistic writing is opinionated and not balanced well enough to represent the opposing sides of the global warming issue.
“If I did have an agenda, it would be a very confusing one,” Chang said.
Chang explained that there is a difference between influence and information. Through the limited power of the media, it is difficult to present the facts in a way that is seen as factual, not influential. Chang has received many negative opinions because of this, including one critic stating his article was a script for the next biggest blockbuster. However, the predictions he made in a 2006 article about a drought occurring in the Middle East and the melting of the Arctic Ice, happened years later.
“I don’t believe that my opinion should be the most important one,” Chang said. “I really want to try and explain things as they really are so people can understand them.”
The Western Michigan University Center of Humanities hosted this lecture with the goal to bring in someone with a science background in order to look at how science is written and disseminated to the larger audience.
“We wanted to initiate and incubate dialogue in the university to integrate students into so they aren’t isolated in their main study,” Scott Bade, the coordinator of the series, said. “Kenneth Chang and his lecture seemed to fit the bill sort of perfectly.”
Bade hopes that students who attended the lecture will get a better understanding of how their education can be used to do good work outside of academia. Bade also believes that it is a good idea to hear other opinions and ideas that are not in the classroom in order to discover what is being done outside of the university.
“I found the lecture very informative,” Meagan Besachuk, an English major, said. “It made me question global warming overall and I was very moved by the speech.”
Chang’s lecture was the third one hosted by the WMU University Center of Humanities “Changing Climates” series. Three more speakers will present during the spring semester. The speakers will include Peggy Shepard on Feb. 20, Sandra Steingraber on March 13, and Osama Mandany on May 15. Due to the current situation in Egypt, Mandany’s lecture date is tentative.