By Carl Zimmer | April 7, 2009 8:13 pm

In several posts in my series on George Will’s misleading claims about global warming in the Washington Post, I have referred to the “Arctic Climate Research Center” at the University of Illinois. It has been brought to my attention that no such center actually exists. Instead, there is a group of scientists at the University of Illinois who conduct research on climate in the Arctic (one of whom, Bill Chapman, I interviewed as part of my research).

The phrase “Arctic Climate Research Center” is apparently the concoction of Michael Asher in a January 1 Daily Tech post. George Will has stated that he based his (erroneous) claims about global sea ice on Asher’s post. I can only assume he also got the fictional center from the same source. In writing my own posts on this controversy, I conducted a Google search on the name and ended up on a page with the banner “Arctic Climate Research at the University of Illinois.”

As with any error, I regret this oversight. I am now adding clarifications to all the erroneous posts.

Brad Johnson, who noticed this error, sums the situation up nicely:

Despite publishing criticism of factual errors and distortions in “Dark Green Doomsayers” by Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander, science journalist Chris Mooney, Secretary General of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization Michel Jarraud, Post blogger Andrew Freeman, and Post reporters Juliet Eilperin and Mary Beth Sheridan, the Washington Post has yet to issue a single correction for Will’s column, syndicated in dozens of newspapers nationwide.

Corrections are standard operating procedure at newspapers. It’s fact-checking after the fact, as it were. A few of my science articles for the New York Times have “Correction Appended” branded on them. There’s no shame if the corrections were simple oversights. We all make mistakes, and we ought to live with them. But have we really reached the point now where blogs [shudder] are becoming more conscientious about corrections than the editorial pages of the Washington Post?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Global Warming, Meta

Comments (13)

  1. There are ethical bloggers and unethical bloggers just as their are ethical journalists and unethical journalists. But yes, one would have thought that the Washington Post would generally be on the ethical side of things.

  2. Albert Bakker

    If ethics were a criterium in journalism, newspapers would be illegal.

  3. Michael

    The Washington Post, as is the norm for most large newspapers, just doesn’t think it’s important to publish corrections. It all about circulation and revenue, not about facts.

    [Carl: I think the corrections I mentioned to my own newspaper articles are evidence that this is not true.]

  4. rickflick

    Nicely done Carl. You have used the error an opportunity to make the point again – forcefully.

  5. Michael

    OK, Carl, I’ll buy that your particular paper did well. I have noticed that when some paper prints an error on page one, the correction is usually on page 21.

  6. Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Grist had a good post/article on how strange it is that the Post’s newsies (Freeman, Eilperin, and Sheridan, as also mentioned by Think Progress’ Johnson, above) are slagging on their own paper’s editorial page trying to set the record straight:

  7. Peter Jakubowicz

    Ha … I just finished “Fooled by Randomness” (ppbk ed.); and Taleb has some funny things to say about WIll, refers to Will as his bete noire, and dismisses him as an entertainer. In a nutshell, I think the problem is when a journalist writes about something you the reader know a lot about, you the reader is forced to realize how much baloney masquerading as thought is published in newspapers generally.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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