Agendas in reporting about global warming to be examined in talk

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Photo of journalist Kenneth Chang.

Chang

KALAMAZOO—The potential for hidden agendas in the reporting of global warming will be examined later this month when a New York Times reporter speaks at Western Michigan University as part of the University Center for the Humanities 2013-14 Changing Climates Series.

Kenneth Chang, who has been a science reporter for The New York Times since 2000, will speak at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, in 2452 Knauss Hall. His presentation, titled "News Judgment vs. Opinion: Do I have an Agenda When I Write about Global Warming?" is free and open to the public.

Kenneth Chang

Chang was a graduate student in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, then decided to switch careers to writing about science rather than doing science. After obtaining a science writing degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, he also has written for the Los Angeles Times, the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger and ABCNews.com.

Chang contends there are two enduring and contradictory criticisms of how media like the New York Times approach hot button issues like climate change. One is that articles are thinly veiled polemics pushing preordained political views. The other is that reporters offer up mindless "balance"—giving opposing sides equal time and space, even if one side is obviously more correct.

Chang believes the actual goals of what can be conveyed in the space of a newspaper article—usually a few hundred words—are narrow in scope and ambitious in spirit: an accurate representation of the prevailing science and views.

About the series

As part of the Changing Climates Series, the Center for the Humanities is bringing together scientists and humanists to consider how the world's temperature, environmental and social climates are changing and what the earth's inhabitants need to know and do about it. The series is exploring how scientific research is defining issues that concern everybody, including the warming of the globe, the toxicity of the environment and the fundamental changes mankind is making to the natural world. The intersection of these and other issues provides both an opportunity and a necessity to talk across the usual boundaries within academia and beyond.

For more information, email the Center for the Humanities at wmu-humanities@wmich.edu or call the center at (269) 387-1811.