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« Biofuels driving hunger | Main | Seth Roberts on HTD »
Wednesday
Jan232013

The Black departure

The Carbon Brief is surveying the state of climate reporting in the mass media, and includes an interesting observation about Richard Black's departure from the BBC.

...climate change journalism in the mainstream media is under pressure. For one, the New York Times announced it has dismantled its nine-strong environment desk. This leaves the Los Angeles Times the only one of the US's top five newspapers by readership left with a designated environment desk. And last year, BBC environment correspondent Richard Black left the BBC amidst wider job cuts at the corporation.  

I must say, I thought at the time that he had resigned to try pastures new. I wonder how I got that idea?

There are also some amusing comments from Fiona Fox about Black's expertise in the area:

Climate change is a complex scientific and political subject. On his departure from the BBC, the Science Media Centre said Black's familiarity with the climate beat stood him in good stead to cover the leak of climate scientists' emails from the University of East Anglia in 2009:

"The reason that climate scientists bemoan the loss of Richard is not because he gave them an easy time but because he knew his stuff so well and questioned them from a high level of understanding of the science involved and years of experience of following the complex and messy political machinations on this story."

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Reader Comments (32)

The Fox quote appears to be incomplete. It should end 'and then gave them an easy time'.

Jan 23, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Black still turns up on BBC news but now as an independent expert. Perhaps he thought that that would allow him to be less even handed in the views he expresses.

Jan 23, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

Fiona Fox has just proved that human photocopying machines , that us to say 'journalists' that reproduce to the public what ever their feed from green advocacy groups, do have a sense of humour.
Black was 'the Teams ' BBC go to guy , always willing to give them and their claims PR when they came calling and never unwilling to play the three wise monkeys .

Jan 23, 2013 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

"The reason that climate scientists bemoan the loss of Richard is not because he gave them an easy time but because he knew his stuff so well and questioned them from a high level of understanding..."

That was also the reason they bemoaned the death of John Daly. In one email, the head of Britain's Climatic Research Unit, Phil Jones, said he is "cheered" by news of the sudden death of a prominent Australian climate sceptic, John L. Daly, who died of a heart attack at his Launceston home in 2004.

Jan 23, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Was this why, Richards long involvement with Stakeholder Forum, paying an 'unamed' bbc environment correspondent £4200 whilst at Rio ( Richard Black previously worked with them a lot ( producing lobbying UN, etc)

http://blackswhitewash.com/richard-black-so-whats-he-actually-doing-in-rio/

http://blackswhitewash.com/a-global-coup-detat-part-2-richard-black/

http://blackswhitewash.com/stakeholder-forums-rio20-budget-makes-heartlands-budget-look-like-childs-pocket-money/

http://blackswhitewash.com/richard-black-the-stakeholder-forum-and-csd17/

Jan 23, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

"I thought at the time that he had resigned to try pastures new. I wonder how I got that idea?"

It's the standard phrase when someone gets the push. Like a politician "wanting to spend more time with his faimily".

Jan 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

... questioned them from a high level of understanding of the science [and the required agenda] involved.

Jan 23, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

"The reason that climate scientists bemoan the loss of Richard is not because he gave them an easy time but because he knew which side of his bread was buttered and bigged up the scare stories accordingly so that the subsidy junkie industry could grow and prosper, pumping more and more money back to them for self-affirming research."

There.. I've fixed that for Fiona.

Jan 23, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

From my dealings with him, his knowledge and understanding of the science was pretty well non-existent. He would never divulge his qualifications (if any).

Jan 23, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

He stated that he left to work on ocean conservation. He has done well as the ocean is still there.

Jan 23, 2013 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

I don't buy this newly minted legend that Black was known for his incisive questioning and the rough time he gave the climate science community. It's laughable that this is supposedly the reason why he will be missed by them. From my view all I remember seeing was the community craving soft balls and Black duly sending them.

I mean for example when I read this from the Science Media Centre link -

When Richard Black pursued Martin around the world it was not to have a cosy chat but to interrogate him about his part in ‘Himalaya-gate’. Yet the mutual respect has clearly survived these bruising exchanges and Richard was one of the few journalists that Martin Parry was happy to speak to.

I wondered, has anyone seen any evidence of the "bruising" time Black supposedly gave Parry? Did it make it into publication anywhere? I sure as hell can't find any.

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:04 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

"He has done well as the ocean is still there."

I am reminded of the old Soviet Russian joke.

Q. What happens when you put the Government in charge of the desert?

A. Nothing for ten years. Then they run out of sand.

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

ssat -

He stated that he left to work on ocean conservation. He has done well as the ocean is still there.

Ah yes, but if Black has anything to do with it you can guarantee that the oceans will be rising so fast that by 2050 all the great coastal cities in the world will be underwater, and not just water, it will be so acidic that it won't support any life; and the land will be smote by droughts and floods and mild winters and cold winters and storms and it will have been all be our fault for not being good global citizens and following Agenda 21 and decommissioning all our coal power stations...

Black was such an apologist for CRU and the rest of the team, that it is a wonder that the BBC took so long to get rid of him. Just look at the content and tone of these articles - BBC impartiality at its best (ho ho):

Climate emails: Storm or yawn?
Police end 'ClimateGate' inquiry

That said, Black at least put his name to his output, which cannot be said for whoever wrote this which has appeared on the BBC Environment pages today:

Massive melting of Andes glaciers

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:26 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

"I wondered, has anyone seen any evidence of the "bruising" time Black supposedly gave Parry? Did it make it into publication anywhere? I sure as hell can't find any."

Does anyone have evidence of any articles that Black published that were critical* of the CAGW industry's position. It would be nice to have the time to do an analysis. Can't imagine the percentage would be higher than 1%.

* And I don't mean critical in the BBC sense. i.e. We're equally critical of the political right and left. The right for not being left-wing, and the left for not being left-wing enough.

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

When Paul Hudson wrote at the BBC Sci enviro section:

BBC: Whatever Happened to Global warming
(talking about no warming for 11 yrs, etc over 3 years ago, heresy, PDO, oceanic cycles, solar)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8299079.stm


Climategate email: Michael Mann wrote:

extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC. its particularly odd,since climate is usually Richard Black’s beat at BBC (and he does a great job). from what I can tell, this guy was formerly a weather person at the Met Office.

We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it might be appropriate for
the Met Office to have a say about this, I might ask Richard Black what’s up here?”

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Lapogus - "whoever wrote this"

Richard (Carbon) Black has evidently been replaced by Matt Black: shine a light on him and there is no one there.

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Black defended the science of climate change not report it. When did he ever break an important story? he was a pack journalist who only ever looked to authority for his stories, he turned what should be the most exciting news beat in the world into dull grey journalism usually only quoting the usual suspects. He didn't shake the tree - he became the manure spread around it.

And what is the Climate News Network mentioned in the Carbon Brief article!! It's run by former everyone inc Alex Kirby (ho ho) who as far as I can see are passing off stories already in the media and wanting a byline to do so. I looked at the FAQ's page and saw two examples of bad grammar! veteran journalists huh!

But they are not acting as journalists the say in About Us that they say climate change is the most serious threat to human well being - its caused largely by human activities - the decisions we take in the next few years will determine how serious it is - its not too late to act - we need to make radical changes, fast.

If Kirby et al running the Climate News Network think that that makes them impartial, wise and experienced journalists then they should think again. In making those statements the CNN (yes, really) show where they are coming from and are a pressure group not a source of information. They are ten years behind the times in their philosophy. The CNN is the old world of specialist journalism not the new one.

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterExoCNN

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.
But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.

Humbert Wolfe

Jan 23, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme


From my dealings with him, his knowledge and understanding of the science was pretty well non-existent. He would never divulge his qualifications (if any).
Jan 23, 2013 at 11:14 AM Phillip Bratby

I think he had been a BBC sound technician before he hit the big time. I imagine that he'd have an HND or something like that.

Jan 23, 2013 at 1:03 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Black was a journalist at the BBC where Saville was a presenter, right?

On a less serious note, I never found a single Black article interesting. The comments below them were.

Jan 23, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Registered Commentershub

I had interactions with Black when he wrote a poorly sourced and documented piece on teflon frying pans and dead canaries and budgies. From what I could tell he was completely in the thrall of environmental activists and demonstrated a lack of critical thinking and understanding of good experimental design.

Jan 23, 2013 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

The Carbon Brief article is an ad for two climate news networks.
http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net
is run by ex-Guardian writers Paul Brown and Tim Radford, Kieran Cooke ex-BBC and FT, and Alex Kirby, ex-BBC.
At least they’re giving away free what others make you pay for.

http://www.climatecentral.org is American and much bigger. On the Board is Michael Oppenheimer, whose 1990 book “Dead Heat” told us how we’d all be fried by now.
They say: “Climate change is difficult to communicate, so we don’t just send our information out and hope it is seen. We use proven social science methods to determine what messages resonate with our viewers...”
Advocacy journalism paid for by the US taxpayer.

Jan 23, 2013 at 1:46 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

If you look at Old-Etonian Shukman's reoorts on the beeb, and he's in charge of environment, they are good defined as reasonably even-handed compared with Black and Harrabin. The sub-plot is that over the past two years, our Establishment has apparently accepted that the IPCC 'consensus' is fatally flawed.

Jan 23, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Sort of off-topic, but indulge me...
I live in Cambridge. We host a lot of overseas students, who've come to learn (or improve their) English at one of the language schools which proliferate here.
Now - watch the following sentence. 'I've been reading English at Cambridge.'
See the trick..? Its the truth - but not the WHOLE truth.
Now - apply that to any number of variations of 'Environment correspondent/climate expert/weather forecaster' and you'll see what I'm driving at - take a stance on 'climate' - and instantly you can be an 'expert on climate'...
Time for my medication now....

P.S. ssat - your one-liner on Richard Black and 'ocean conservation' made me spit coffee all over my keyboard...

Jan 23, 2013 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

(ho ho)

Jan 23, 2013 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames

He stated that he left to work on ocean conservation. He has done well as the ocean is still there.
Jan 23, 2013 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered Commenter ssat
==========================================

Tea => computer monitor

Thank you for the laugh :).

Considering his total inability to debate any opposition to his Team press-releases, I can only assume he's actually simply a PR man in the mould of dear old Bob "Shoot Myself Repeatedly in the Foot" Ward. Do these people get chosen for anything positive?

Jan 23, 2013 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterElftone

Well I can say that I got Richard Black to correct an article for accuracy once when he was discussing one of the smaller but considerably more potent GHGs. The construction of a paragraph suggested that this GHG was measured in PPM (parts per million) when it should have been PPB (parts per billion). I said in the BBC response page that if it were Xppm then the world would be considerably warmer than it is (apologies to sky dragons). I receive a nice response from Richard quite quickly and he amended the article accordingly.

In the scheme of things, its a trivial story but there is a difference between interpretation and accuracy. While I disagree with Richard Black's interpretations of the science as he wrote it, that's not the same issue as him writing inaccuracies. The issues around the BBC principles of impartiality are also interpretative unfortunately.

What's interesting about this shake-out of media journalists of whom you could have thrown a blanket over their interpretations of the science (I'm feeling generous) is that their positions are being tested by the real response of the Earth's climate system but also from the realities of geopolitics and a new economic environment lets not forget. That they are not thriving is due to more complex reasons than just the pause in global average temperature but that does play an important part going forward.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't worry about Richard Black the individual but rather how the debate and narrative is framed in the mainstream today. Victory dances over the fallen are a little petty.

Jan 23, 2013 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterLiT

Global warming is a dead duck outside Europe (and its British driven directives) no matter what Obama says.

Jan 23, 2013 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

BBC 'Black out' in environmental journalism Pinocchio-ism in 2012.


BBC 'Harrabin la fin ' in 2013?


John

Jan 23, 2013 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

"I thought at the time that he had resigned to try pastures new. I wonder how I got that idea?"

It's the standard phrase when someone gets the push. Like a politician "wanting to spend more time with his faimily".

@Jan 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Martin A
==================================================================

I have no time for the man at all - but to be fair, he did say that he had gone on to another job, to do, I think, with marine/ocean conservation or similar.

Jan 23, 2013 at 5:18 PM | Registered Commenterjeremyp99

"He stated that he left to work on ocean conservation. He has done well as the ocean is still there."

Now you owe me a coffee free keyboard.

Jan 23, 2013 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Mmmm, rats and sinking ships spring to mind.

Jan 24, 2013 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeal Asher

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