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All you need is a window
Being in Philadelphia, one of the areas of the US hit hard by winter storms this year, I have watched a lot of media coverage of the storms over the season, and after today's onslaught, not of weather but of weather coverage, I was inspired to post this rant on my Facebook page:
I am so disappointed in US news media. Every time there's a major weather event like a snow storm, news everywhere puts all their reporters out in the snow to make their reports for no reason other than the image of it, but not one segment is ever spent on asking about the overall climate patterns that have exacerbated these extreme weather trends. We are subjected to dozens of man-on-the-street interviews of random people who are amazed at how much snow there is, and not a single one that interviews the scientists who study these weather events and can actually give us some insight and perspective compared to current trends and historical precedents. This is why American's beliefs in climate change are so fickle as to change with the temperature, and why less than half of Americans believe in human-caused climate change. This is why Bill Nye has to actually go out and explain why people and dinosaurs did not live at the same time. When the Founding Fathers guaranteed freedom of the press, they did so under the belief that the press has a duty to keep the public informed and in touch with the larger machinations of the country, and in this sacred responsibility they are failing miserably.
For what it's worth, there are from time to time reports that actually do just that; but these are the exception not the rule, and considering how much media reporting is devoted to issues of weather, the corresponding amount devoted to climate change is dismal.

As far as the scientific community is concerned, the overwhelming consensus is that human-caused climate change is the reality, that we can expect more extreme weather events as a result, including harsher winters.

Given all of this, the absence, marginalization, or outright misreporting of climate change coverage by mainstream media is outrageous and should be treated as such. I could just as well just say this about many other issues besides climate change that the media chooses to misreport, however the weather is a special case. For a subject the media loves to devote such an inordinate amount of time and resources, they choose to ignore such a vital component of the story. It would be like describing the plot of The Walking Dead without ever mentioning the zombies. It is true that at the end of the day, the media is a business, and they very likely put their business interests ahead of properly informing the public. Nevertheless, this is a responsibility we should expect our press to uphold, something that we have not properly appreciated.

What better way to illustrate this importance the Founding Fathers put in the free press than their own words?

(These quotes are taken from The Essential Wisdom of the Founding Fathers)

"To the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression...."
-Thomas Jefferson, Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, 1799

"Be not intimidated, therefore, by any terrors, from publishing with the utmost freedom whatever can be warranted by the laws of our country; nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberty by any pretenses of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery, and cowardice."
-John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law, 1765

"The liberty of the press consists in the right to publish with impunity truth with good motives, for justifiable ends. To disallow it is fatal."
-Alexander Hamilton, Propositions on the Law of Libel, 1804

"I am for...freedom of the press and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force, and not by reason, the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799

"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Curie, January 28, 1786

In the case of climate change, the press has been uncharacteristically silent, not through coercion or force, but in a vested self-interest in acting like it isn't really a newsworthy story. But as a populace, we should not allow the press to remain silent on such an important issue, that affects all our lives, and the lives of our future generations. Rather than forcing their silence, we should be demanding they utilize their significant reach and resources to properly inform the public.

If we do not hold the press to higher standards than we have been, not only do we tarnish the memory of our Founding Fathers who held a free press as so vital to democracy, but we will prove them right by ignoring their efforts. As recent stories such as the Christie scandal, Edward Snowden and the NSA, the West Virginia water contaminations, and the lies on the CBO Obamacare report show, the politicians, corporations, and wealthy financiers who most threaten our lives, liberty, and pursuits of happiness will only have their most egregious abuses checked by a vigilant public, and a free press willing to keep them informed and empowered.

Originally posted to The Progressive Atheist on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 06:20 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS and Community Spotlight.

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