Last Friday, Hannity & Colmes aired a report on CNN’s Planet in Peril by going to the University of Alabama to have students in a forum give their opinions on the CNN doc. The “forum” was moderated by Dr. John Christy, climatologist and critic of the “Global Warming” theory.
Monday, ICN was contacted by one of the students who attended the forum, Christopher Hain. He wrote that several of the students there felt that what aired on Hannity & Colmes was not an accurate portrail of either the forum or some of the views represented on it. The forum itself was open to all Atmospheric Science graduate students at the University and not just students who attended Dr. Christy’s classes; 10 students in all. Of those 10, Hain says three or four disagreed with at least part of the responses given on the H&C segment, which in percentage terms would be 30-40% of the students.
In watching the video I noticed Alan Colmes asked Dr. Christy, “…the students we saw in that clip…were they representative of the people in your class? There were a lot of students who were not photographed who probably had a different view, right?” To which Christy responded, “I think there were a wide range of views presented in that and those were not special students selected. They volunteered to come.” Which begs the obvious question, if there was “a wide range of views presented” why were only the critical views shown in the segment?
Which areas in particular were your views not reflected?
At this point I can only speak for myself, but I perceived the CNN special to be quite good. Each segment of the special introduced a certain way that humans are leaving their “footprint” on the environment, and an explanation of the potential causes of several of the things that were discussed (i.e. Climate Change) were spoken to with respect to hypothetical causes, in other words, they did their best not to try to pass things off as fact where a certain uncertainty still exists. I’ll be honest, I was quite selfish during the debate, with respect to the fact that I stated my opinion on every topic that was brought up by the moderator, yet nothing I said was presented on the Hannity and Colmes segment. I feel this was the case because my views were “neutral to at times very positive” and in no way were negative towards the CNN special. Without giving you an exact number (I can’t speak for students who chose not to speak), I’d estimate that the forum presented views from both sides, but neither side was 0verwhelmingly in the majority, but I still believe the “neutral to positive” viewpoint was still more represented in the actual forum, when compared to the negative viewpoint.
What areas specifically were “misrepresented”?
Hopefully some of the other students will respond, especially the ones who had their actual words misrepresented. I did not have my actual words misrepresented but I did appear in the segment while Dr. Christy was talking to Hannity and Colmes during the live interview. As a whole, I am disappointed that Fox News chose to only present one side of the debate even though they had every opportunity to provide a “fair and balanced” view of the opinion of students at UAH. As a student here at UAH, I am very proud of our Atmospheric Science department and I quite displeased that the views of mine and even students that did not participate in the forum can now be associated with the “viewpoint” that Fox News presented about our student population here at UAH.
The obvious question, which I know the critics of your analysis will ask, is…how can those who didn’t say anything feel that things were being mis-represented? If they didn’t speak up during the forum, it would be hard to argue that they were mis-represented.
Yeah I agree with what you are saying and its a valid point. Its hard to complain you were misrepresented when you didn’t actually take the time to make your voice heard. But on the other hand, I think some students don’t want UAH to become associated as an Atmospheric Science department that is consisted of only Climate Change “skeptics”, which is quite far from the truth but could be perceived from the Hannity and Colmes segment. I think we tend to be easily concerned about the reputation of our department because ultimately when we graduate and look for employment in our field, we don’t want to be unfairly judged because the reputation of our department was tarnished during a Fox News segment.
On Tuesday ICN interviewed a second forum attendee, Kevin Quinlan.
How many students are upset with this? How many are in your group? And how did the percentages break down?
There were a total of ten students who participated in the forum, but the invitational email was sent out all graduate Atmospheric Science students. I would say that out of the 10 people in the forum, 2 people said nothing during the discussion, and 2 other people only had 1 or 2 things to say. Since only 4 persons viewpoints were shown in the piece, its hard to say that everybody’s statements were misrepresented, but those of us who did not make statements that Fox wanted to hear were not aired. As a whole, I would say that 60-70% of the comments were favorable towards the CNN program.
Which areas in particular were your views not reflected?
Climate change can be a very emotional topic for many people, it is for this reason that I chose my words very carefully before I spoke during the forum. The comments that I made during the discussion were usually backed up with data that was presented during the 2007 IPCC Summary for Policy Makers. This data is a compilation of the worlds experts on climate change, and something that I happen to agree very strongly with. Generally my comments were made in response to a student or professor criticizing CNN or if I felt that their statements were inaccurate as compared to the best data available.
What specific examples of misrepresentation were there?
Because my words were not used in the piece by Fox, I cannot say that I was personally misrepresented, however, I can say that I believe the discussion was misrepresented. The clips that Fox news showed were of the students who agreed with their political agenda, or they would cut off the clip before the student speaking was able to make their point. This chopping of the sound bytes made the student appear to disagree with CNN, but in reality, they were about to make their point backing up CNN.
The reason that I am writing to you right now is not to clear my own name, because my name was not used during the piece and my words were not slandered. The reason I am writing is because I feel that our Atmospheric Science Department as a whole has been very misrepresented by Fox News and the Hannity & Colmes show. The comments made during the forum were not overwhelming in favor or against the CNN program. I would characterize the views as favorable towards CNN, but the Fox News network did not represent any of the views that were favorable to CNN’s.
Newshounds has an email from a third forum participant, Will McCarty, which I reprint here…
Friday night, Hannity and Colmes aired a segment entitled “Planet in Perspective”. It was designed as a response to CNN’s “Planet in Peril” specials aired last week and was proposed as an opportunity to provide reactions and responses from the perspective of graduate students in the Atmospheric Sciences. Since this was how it was proposed to us, a group of ten students within the department, ranging from first-year masters students to a Ph. D. candidate within 6 months of completion (myself) had volunteered to participate.
The Professor contacted by Fox News to organize the segment was Dr. John Christy. While I have much respect for the man (he’s a nice guy, a fantastic Professor, and a very intelligent man), I know well enough that he is on the edge of the “Global Warming” debate towards the “skeptic” side. While I am not an expert on Global Warming or Climate Change, I volunteered as one of the highly-regarded graduate students within the department to participate. I was entering as a neutral party, going in skeptical of both the ability of CNN to put a special together, using a journalist, biologist, and doctor, to fairly and neutrally portray the subject and of Fox News, to be able to portray the reactions of the graduate students fairly, not warp the reactions to fit their agenda.
Well, I was very pleasantly surprised with the neutrality of the CNN piece and their presentation of multiple sides of the arguments of the segments they had. This was certainly the reaction of the majority of the group of graduate students.
This point of view, and the overwhelming neutral to favorable reaction to the special, was wiped out by Fox News and Hannity and Colmes by the art of creative editing. I was featured commenting on how it was a “human interest” piece and how CNN’s concern was “ratings” during the piece, and very clearly cut off before being able to finish my thought. Major discussion participants and leaders were simply cut altogether because their perspective didn’t fit H&C/FNC’s agenda for the piece.
This was a terrible example of selective journalism and, more concerning to me, has tarnished a young but up-and-coming department in the atmospheric sciences that I, as well as many others, have worked very hard to develop an elite reputation within the field.
ICN contacted Hannity & Colmes regarding this story. Hannity & Colmes Senior Producer John Finley commented…
We taped more than 50 minutes of the class discussion and edited down the most compelling comments to about 3 minutes. Nobody was told what to say and there was no agenda in selecting what made air. The portions that were included in the segment were representative of the issues raised in the discussion. Due to the time constraints of the segment, not every who student who participated could be included.