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To: Editorial Boards of The Washington Post and New York Times
Tell The Washington Post and New York Times: Don't promote climate change denial
It is the job of newspapers to inform readers of factual information, not promote lies about climate change. Please join with the Los Angeles Times in implementing a formal policy of refusing to publish any letters to the editor or other content that denies climate change. This common-sense policy will enhance the discussion and debate in your pages.
Why is this important?
The Los Angeles Times recently announced a common-sense policy of refusing to publish letters to the editor that promote climate change denial. But unfortunately, among major newspapers, the L.A. Times stands out as an exception.
The New York Times and Washington Post have tremendous influence on the discourse in our country, and I've been an avid reader of both for years. But neither paper has an explicit policy against publishing letters to the editor that include factually inaccurate statements about climate change.
I've seen firsthand the corrosive effects of the well-funded climate change denial effort. I worked in the Senate for John Kerry, and I spoke to many climate scientists who were physically threatened, harassed, and slandered just for doing their jobs. I've seen our nation's political machinery brought to a halt and our discourse poisoned by cynical efforts to hide the scientific facts behind a smokescreen of spin.
Newspapers and other media outlets can play a critical role in our political process by acting as a check against unscrupulous politicians, corporations and others who intentionally lie to the public. But by "reporting both sides" and giving climate change deniers equal space to promote their lies, large swaths of the news media have failed to do their job of informing the public.
With the science on climate change becoming increasingly grim and time running out to prevent catastrophic extreme weather events from becoming near-constant occurrences, we can't afford to let major American newspapers mislead the public by printing errors of fact about climate change.
Earlier this month, the L.A. Times' letters editor wrote, "Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying 'there's no sign humans have caused climate change' is not stating an opinion, it's asserting a factual inaccuracy."
While the L.A. Times' announcement is a welcome step in the right direction, we need to put pressure on the New York Times and Washington Post to follow suit, given the influence they have on decision makers in our political and financial power centers.