My Rebuttal to Romm

By Keith Kloor | November 1, 2009 5:10 pm

[UPDATE 1: See bottom to read about the deletions and textual changes Romm makes in his post and follow-up response.]

[UPDATE 2: Science journalist and University of Colorado professor Tom Yulsman, (a colleague and friend), weighs in here.]

[UPDATE 3: Since publishing his post on me, Romm has made so many changes in the text that it’s hard to keep track of them. But the most obvious one, as of 11/6/09, is the headline. Where it used to read: “Meet Trash Journalist Keith Kloor,” it now says, “Meet Blogger Keith Kloor.”]

In an obvious effort to damage my reputation, Joe Romm makes many sweeping accusations in this post.  Among the biggest is this one:

Day in and day out, Kloor just trashes people who disagree with him.

Wow, I invite anyone to scan the last week of my blog or any random week in the last nine months to see if that’s true. Why Romm would make such an obviously refutable statement boggles my mind.

The reason for Romm’s 2700-word attack seems to stem from this critical post I wrote on him several weeks ago. So I’ll mostly address his grievances related to that. Honestly, the stuff he throws out in the second half of his post amounts to a string of selective quotes from various posts of mine, all taken out of context–and all meant to buttress Romm’s contention that I am some poseur journalist. (And he never provides links to the actual posts.)

So Romm alleges that I’ve “smeared” his parents in this post. That’s the charge I take most seriously. Here’s the prelude: After being caught trying to feed Stanford climate scientist Ken Caldeira a quote, Romm defended himself this way:

It is exceedingly common in regular journalism to ask people for a quote that makes a very specific point “” I’ve been asked many times by reporters to do similar things.

I took exception to that, and wrote this:

I’ve never done this during my career as a magazine journalist. I don’t know any magazine writer that would do such a thing. Perhaps it happens in the newspaper world, but I’d be shocked if it occurs in the the way Romm suggests.

It also bothered me that Romm wanted that canned quote for this reason:

I want to trash them [Dubner & Levitt] for this insanity and ignorance.

As I wrote here:

It would be one thing if Romm said to Caldeira, I want to refute Dubner and Levitt, or I want to repudiate them.

But no, Romm says he wants to trash them. That’s plainly out of bounds. That’s not how reputable journalists operate”“we don’t set out to deliberately trash people.

Now, in my original critical post, I admittedly tried to tweak Romm with a reference to his family journalistic connection, (mainly because he invokes it often at Climate Progress):

I suspect that Romm is trying to rationalize his own behavior with the kind of lazy practice that perhaps happened with regularity in a past era”“maybe even at the Times Herald Record in the 1960s and 1970s, which is where Romm first learned all about journalism, when his parents were at the helm of that Hudson Valley paper. But I wouldn’t want to impugn his parents’ legacy or that paper’s reputation with such an accusation. Maybe I’ll just call up some old friends who worked at that fine paper in recent years and see if it was “exceedingly common” for them to feed sources quotes when they reported their stories.

So how is that a smear of his parents? How could it be, because Romm himself asserts that feeding sources specific quotes is standard journalistic practice. So if that’s the way it’s done–and I contend not–then me pointing to a hypothetical past in which his parents might have practiced this can’t be a smear. After all, Romm rationalizes his own behavior by saying everyone else does it. Everyone else would seem to include all journalists, including his parents, right?

Yes, I write rhetorically that perhaps the practice of feeding quotes was once common decades ago (and I honestly don’t know), but I wouldn’t want to assume so either, which is why I write with respect to his parents:

But I wouldn’t want to impugn his parents’ legacy or that paper’s reputation with such an accusation.

Here’s the rest of what I wrote in that paragraph:

Maybe I’ll just call up some old friends who worked at that fine paper in recent years and see if it was “exceedingly common” for them to feed sources quotes when they reported their stories.

Somehow Romm interprets this as me digging for dirt on his father:

Note that in the above quote, he even threatens to try to dig up some dirt on my late-father and his paper, which again, is just far, far beyond the pale of acceptable practice even on the blogosphere.

Huh? Maybe I wasn’t being arch enough, but what I’m trying to say here is that I don’t believe my contemporaries at his father’s old paper actually engage in the practice of feeding sources quotes.  I suspect that if I called them up (and I never did), they would cringe in horror at the suggestion.

Now, this rebuttal has already gone on too long, so I’ll take up a few of the other Romm gems about me in a separate post. But in the meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this beaut from him (his emphasis):

Kloor’s blog posts this year prove he is an anti-journalist, the Glenn Beck of bloggers.

Joe, I’m glad to see that you’ve been reading all along.

UPDATE: In a follow up response in the comments section at Climate Progress, Romm explains that he meant it figuratively–that I supposedly “trash climate bloggers, day in and day out…” He goes on to amend this statement to: “week in and week out.” Never mind that this is still false; Romm can’t even bring himself to acknowledge the change in the original post with a customary cross-out.

In that same follow-up response, Romm calls me a denier and delayer. Wait, you won’t find that there anymore, because he deleted it shortly after I wrote another comment (that never got through his censor) expressing my surprise at this.  I had told him that this latest charge struck me as astonishing, because from 2000-2008 I was an editor at Audubon Magazine. During that time, I helped conceive and edit two special issues on climate change. I asked Romm if I was some sort of “denier” mole during my tenure there. Or if I warranted this label because I was critical of him in my blog.

I have yet to receive an answer or an explanation as to why he deleted the sentence about me being a denier and delayer. As I understand it, bloggers use cross-outs when textual changes are made,

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Joe Romm, Journalism
  • Eli Rabett

    It’s best to stay away from people’s parents especially when you are trying to be cute.  They tend not to react well.  Didn’t they teach you that in J school?

    Your mother and all that.

  • Oliver

    “I want to trash them [Dubner & Levitt] for this insanity and ignorance.”

    I suspect even Romm is a bit embarrassed that this tidbit from his recent qoute-feeding episode got publicized. It hardly seems in line with the idea of the Center for American Progress (CAP) being a cerebral ‘Think Tank’.

    His post on you is just going to keep that quote alive though, so I don’t understand it from a strategic perspective. Oh well, conflict brings in the blog hits I guess!

    I’m not sure the whole huge post needs to be answered point-by-point. Morano feels comfortable just pointing to Romm posts and letting them speak for themselves. Much less work on your part! (and who DOESN’T Romm criticize?)



  • Keith Kloor

    Eli, check this out: you’re probably right. But because Romm invokes them often in his blog to provide a veneer of journalistic cred, I thought it was okay to reference them. But I should have been straightforward and not clever by a half.

  • Tim Lambert

    Two more posts on Romm, and still nothing about Superfreakonomics. No doubt it’s Romm’s fault that you haven’t read chapter 5?

  • Hell-n-High Water

    Will Tim Lambert be discussing the war on science being conducted by CSIRO pretty local to him?  I doubt it because he likes to play grade school games of he-said/he-said.  I see that right now he is picking a fight with Tom Fuller (who is he?). How important!  When can we expect more posts about Kloor over there?

  • William Connolley
  • Gator

    So, KK, do you agree that L&D wrote in their book the exact opposite of what Dr. Caldiera actually believes and publicly espouses?  Do you agree that Romm’s presentation of Dr. Caldiera’s views more accurately represents Dr. C’s beliefs and work?
    So in light of this, you make a big stink about Joe Romm’s journalistic ethics”¦ who cares about the actual facts of the case, eh?

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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