Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Why I Won’t Be Renewing my ‘Economist’ Subscription

For more than a decade, the UK-based news magazine, The Economist has arrived at my doorstep every week. But when my current subscription runs out in a few days, we won’t be renewing.

The cost has always been steep. The best deal I’m currently being offered is $230 for a two-year extension. That’s a lot of money. The same amount will buy me two dozen e-books, a tall stack of DVDs, or half an iPad.

What I’ve traditionally received in exchange for that high price tag was solid analysis that put the mostly superficial fare in Canada’s national newspapers to shame. I was happy to pay for – and support – The Economist‘s grownup, realistic, nuanced, and informed perspective on the world.

But that was before this publication chose to substitute critical thinking for cheerleading for critical thinking with respect to global warming. That was before it decided it was good policy to pepper all sorts of unrelated stories with gratuitous references to climate change. (For example, see this piece masquerading as an obit of television actor Peter Falk, this one on the death of an al-Qaeda operative in Somalia, and this coverage of the drug war in Latin America.)

My concerns had been growing long before the magazine chose to run a cover story a few months ago proclaiming “Geology’s new age.” Based on the opinions of a politically motivated atmospheric chemist, here’s how this matter was described inside the magazine:

In 2000 Paul Crutzen, an eminent atmospheric chemist, realised he no longer believed he was living in the Holocene. He was living in some other age, one shaped primarily by people. [italics added]

We’re told “there is a movement afoot” to change how science thinks about the effect humans have on the planet and that the “ultimate adjudicator of the geological time scale” – the International Commission on Stratigraphy – is “taking a formal interest.”

Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s inappropriate for The Economist to run a cover story declaring this new age to be a done deal before the proper authorities have even considered the matter. (The cover declared: Welcome to the Anthropocene.)

This is no longer news reporting. It well and truly crosses the line into environmental advocacy. Since I get plenty of that from all sorts of other media outlets, there’s no way on this green Earth I’m about to hand over $230 for yet another steady stream of it.

Fashionable ideas hold great sway over even the most intelligent among us. We are a product of our time and place far more than we realize. What The Economist used to offer me was rigorous, smart, unfashionable analysis.

Having spent two years researching the climate debate, I’m now fully aware of the long list of important stories The Economist should have been covering – stories that would have helped keep institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change honest.

Instead, it chooses to dish up non-stop, green-hued pap. In other words, I no longer see The Economist as a place where sound journalistic judgment is being exercised. That’s the reason the subscription renewal has received the thumbs-down from me.

The fact that it’s now difficult to read a single issue of this magazine without stumbling across superfluous, unsupported, highly irritating remarks about climate change in articles that aren’t remotely connected to the environment is why it has received the thumbs-down from my spouse.



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This entry was posted on August 17, 2011 by in activist scientists, media and tagged , , , .
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