My troubles with mainstream journalism (Kloor prominently included) and my frustration with their obtuseness will have to await another day, as for the moment I owe Keith Kloor an apology.
So first, let me accentuate the positive.
Keith Kloor consistently writes interesting articles about interesting topics. The only way the world will grapple with its sustainability issues is if it finds those issues interesting. Keith and I and I hope most of you share the goal of getting people to understand that the future of our suddenly finite planet is a topic not just worthy of contemplation, but one that is deeply fascinating and engaging as well. (As Lou Grinzo once said “The future will be many things, but boring ain’t on the list.”)
Secondly, whatever else you can say about the conversations he starts, they attract a far more varied set of participants than any other venue in the sustainability space that I know of, with the possible and notable exception of Andy Revkin, who is in some ways a similar writer but has the advantage of a higher profile. Apparently there are advantages to the studied neutrality of the journalism culture in engaging a broad range of opinions. Score one for the old school over the untutored blogs, you have to admit.
As regular readers know, I have a lot of complaints about old school journalism as applied to science, too, but this is not the occasion for it.
Conversation about Keith came up on the back channels yesterday as a consequence of his new blogging venture at Climate Central. In the course of that conversation I was reminded of Arthur Smith’s blistering rant about Keith last year, and like anything I might want to refer to later, I added it to my reader feed. (“mt’s shared items” on the right over there ===> )
Now, the reason that Keith came up in mailing list conversation is precisely the reason that my noting this criticism was ill-timed and boorish.
Keith has started a new blog at Climate Central, and announced it with some enthusiasm. I think he expected some words of congratulation from some quarters. I think perhaps the lack of a substantial response stems more from a lack of enthusiasm for Climate Central (which I share) than form a lack of support for Keith among his readers, but it must sting a bit nonetheless. So, amid all that, to see an old and harsh roasting recycled here was the icing on the cake.
Keith contacted me in email quite
upset disappointed, and I have to say I see his point.
Our tech is pretty overloaded. (Doc Searls has an excellent rant about that today, by the way.) Most readers of this blog aren’t interested in my occasional gems of software engineering and Python coding that make it onto my reader feed, but I haven’t bothered to maintain multiple feeds. Sometimes I add things there for you all, sometimes just for my own reference. Usually, though, I can handle multiple contexts for one item better than that, and I should have seen how reviving this item at this time could be taken as a slap in the face.
While my fundamental disagreements with Keith’s journalism-ism have not gone away, I really didn’t intend to actually stir up bad feelings. As I’ve said before, I like the guy. This despite the fact that he has occasionally said quite nasty things about me; in a way that’s fortunate because I had some room to even the score. But I really didn’t mean to do that.
In fact, it is possible that Keith’s presence at Climate Central will help them both. My problem with Keith is the one I have with most good science journalists (and this, by the way, is where John Fleck shines as an exception): they love a good question more than a good answer. My problem with Climate Central is its consistent violation of its motto “”Sound science & vibrant media”. True, they have decent design, and true, their take on climate is reasonable, but their text tends to the ponderous. Seriously people, this is the future of the whole world! It does not have to read like a sophomore textbook. (Maybe journalists have missed that most people associate this type of writing with dentists’ waiting rooms!)
If Keith’s knack for interesting writing can combine with Climate Central’s unambiguous realism on climate matters, so much the better. (So much the worse for me in trying to design and bootstrap a viable competitor to CC, as well, but the world needs more and better communication nonetheless.) I for one will be hoping for positive synergies from this relationship and will be a regular reader, disagreements notwithstanding.
I doubt that my strong disagreements with Keith are over, but I’d appreciate if any comments on this article refrained from criticizing him. I don’t want the flamefest to start just now.
My apology for my lack of consideration at this moment is sincere, and my slightly jealous congratulations on the new enterprise almost as much so. I will be watching Frontier Earth with interest, and I recommend that you do so as well.