The Little Blue Marble has its first feature-length reported piece and it was written by me! You can read it here. This was an interesting piece to do and it made me think a lot about political polarization — oddly enough — as well as bias in the media.
In this age of Twitter and Facebook and sharing-based-on-the-headline-alone, I think it’s fair to say that some complex problems are reported in an oversimplified way. Let any issue become politicized, and the current polarization of American political thought magnifies that oversimplification. In politics, and sometimes in journalism the way it’s practiced now, seeming sure is almost as good as being sure.
You can see this in the way that science is discussed. Hillary Clinton’s fervent campaign-speech cry “I believe in science” peeved me a little: science isn’t something you believe. Skepticism and constant questioning of belief are the very foundation of scientific practice. And the climate of planet Earth is too big a phenomenon to be summed up in a headline or a 1500-word article.
I was constantly aware of all of that while writing this piece. Little Blue Marble isn’t an objective news outlet, but one with a distinct editorial point of view; I came to the story with my own biases (read the piece to find out what happened with those), as did my sources.
Science isn’t even about being sure, let alone seeming sure. The ideal scientific mind, I suppose, remains ever-questioning and avoids drawing conclusions based on incomplete data (and how can data-gathering about our changing global climate ever be complete?)
Journalistic objectivity is a slightly different beast: at its best, it’s about seeing a thing from all sides. It’s true, some phenomena are too big, too complex, for a 1500-word piece; but by focusing on one little corner, you can shed a little light, illuminate part of the picture.
My sources for this story are experts in their field. They’re also business owners — a demographic which gets vastly oversimplified in politics, just as scientists and soccer moms do — but if there is one thing all entrepreneurs share, it’s that they can’t afford to stand outside the changing world, observing and gathering data until some ultimate truth emerges. They’re making decisions and predictions every day based on what they see. They have to engage with the facts and the educated guesses they have available to them now. That’s what policy-makers have to do too.
Ultimately what I tried to do with this little piece was to let my sources tell the story. I learned a lot, and it was as close to a nuanced take on this complex issue as I could come.