Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

I complain a lot about standards of fact-checking and reasoning in the media, but the Guardian, for some strange reason, never prints my letters. Neither do the columnists I email to point out their mistakes ever reply.

So, I have decided to change my approach. From now on, I have decided instead to highlight the most brilliant contributions to human knowledge by awarding Monbiot Book Prizes; each winner will receive a plug here on this blog and a free copy of the introductory textbook Writing for Journalists to encourage their efforts.

The first winner is Donald MacLeod, Higher Education Editor of the Guardian for a story published last year. In June 2003, the Economic Journal, the premier outlet for the discipline in Europe, published a review of Bjorn Lomborg's book, The Skeptical [sic] Environmentalist. Given the status of the journal, I was eager to read what the authoritative voice of the economics profession might have to say. I finally tracked it down last Saturday in the British Library.

Cole writes:
There is no doubt that, at times, both the media and environmental organisations do provide a distorted impression of environmental problems. The former are concerned with providing eye catching headlines whilst the latter are concerned with increasing membership. Presumably membership growth is a positive function of bad news rather than good.
The Guardian article trancsribes this conclusion as follows: "...Cole, who does not concede that pressure groups make exaggerated gloomy claims..."

Well done, Donald, keep up the excellent work. I hope that talent like this means we'll see him contributing in the future to the Guardian's coverage of US politics or Israel.