I must take issue, at least in part, with my friend Paul Chesser’s attack on the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin. I have known Juliet for some 15 years and know her to be a very hard-working journalist who tries very hard to be fair. More on that in a moment.
First, though: Yes, Juliet clearly leans left. And she clearly is convinced that man-made global warming is a dire threat to humanity — and she is wrong on that, while Paul is right. I also seriously question the Post leaving her on a beat on which her own husband has such a direct professional interest. While it is NOT fair to say that a journalist should have to give up his or her job because of family relationships, it IS fair to say that if there is another beat for which the reporter is qualified, editors ought to move that reporter to a beat that doesn’t put the reporter in the unenviable (and unfair to the reporter herself) position of reporting on a subject where somebody might question her (or his) objectivity, no matter how many pains the reporter takes to try to be fair. In this case, Juliet was a superb and fair-minded reporter on politics (on Congress). She may like the environmental beat better, but really, she has an obvious APPARENT conflict of interest on it even if she is scrupulously objective. If I were a Post editor, I would move her somewhere else — with a promotion.
Also, it is worth noting that Juliet did a great job reporting early last year about two scientific studies showing that corn-based ethanol does more harm than good. Somebody overly wedded to environmentalist conventional wisdom would not have done such a good reporting job on that.
Now, it is always possible that somebody who wants to be fair could nevertheless let strong ideological predilections bias his reporting without being aware of it. I myself have read some of Juliet’s environmental pieces and found that the underlying assumptions were those of the left. My question is, to what extent has Paul, or anybody else on the climate-change-skeptic side, tried to approach Juliet as if she is fair-minded and as if she will give the skeptic side a fair shake if provided enough info? Maybe Paul has done so; I don’t know; I’m just asking. My own experience with Juliet when I worked for Rep. Bob Livingston and she wrote for Roll Call was that she was always willing to listen. I could tell even then when she was skeptical, philosophically, about what we were trying to do in limiting government. But I never once had a problem with her copy. Her reports were thorough and balanced. And I think that as a reporter she is a pro’s pro. Unless I am wrong — and I might be wrong, but I like to believe my judgment on Juliet is correct — she will at least report the other side if given a chance. And she will do so without any deliberately derogatory terms.
To repeat, I think this whole idea of a crisis of man-made global warming is an absolute, irredeemable farce. I think Paul does spectacular work on the subject. It’s just that I know that Juliet Eilperin is not a joke. And I would be more than willing to try to set up a meeting between Paul and Juliet if they haven’t already met.
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