Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Magic Legitimacy of the Neutral Professor

The Magic Legitimacy of the Neutral Professor


If SpinSpotter can figure this out why can't Fox News?

By Todd Herman, SpinSpotter Founder based on the work of SpinSpotter Community Member Devio.

Tort Lawyers and some News Organizations have a game they like to play. It's called the Magic Legitimacy of the Neutral Professor. The game works like this: when someone is a professor, they are perfectly and permanently neutral. They are great "experts" in court. In fact, they are so neutral that such Ph.D'd professional experts often specialize as defense experts or prosecution experts. And, magically enough, they are still just seeking truth. After all, they are professors and, as such, they are above having a point of view.

When the magically neutral are quoted in news articles, they enjoy the same veneer and, often, employ the same decision to specialize. It's a neat game when it works. It's no fun when you get caught doing it and that magic assumption of neutrality falls away.

This week, Fox News played that game with three people in a single article which seemed to attack the Associated Press's analysis of Global Warming. Read the Fox News piece yourself and then tell me, would you noticed this and this?

For the bereft of time---here's a screen shot (click to enlarge:

In the case of Fox News vs. AP on the topic of Global Warming, Professor Deming seems an excellent choice to play the role of the prosecution witness/genetically neutral brain without guile or ambition.

All great professors have points of view, all great journalists do as well. But, if a journalist uses a source so easily attached to a point of view, that journalist simply must disclose that. If the journalist is writing from a point of view, they should disclose that as well. To do otherwise seems a little less than honest ... in fact, it seems like game-play.

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