When it comes to providing better explanations of science, the biggest mistake that journalists usually make is overstating the significance of single studies, technologies, and solutions, according to Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “The issue is to what extent Climate Central can be a neutral arbiter,” he said. “And can the fact that they have people who know what they’re talking about on staff improve the context in which climate stories are reported?”
Though they expressed full confidence in the credibility and competence of Climate Central’s team, a number of the scientists and journalists I spoke with expressed a certain leeriness about the non-profit model of journalism in general (which CJR, to large extent, also replies upon). The two main areas of concern are that foundational support will cause conflicts of interest in covering certain stories, and that such operations would simply never make up for the overwhelming number of journalism jobs being lost around the country.
So, as unique and impressive as Climate Central’s qualifications may be, it will still have to fight the uphill battles that are inherent to an industry undergoing such great flux. Fortunately, everybody there seems abundantly aware of that fact and poised to meet the challenge.
[Correction: The paragraph about Climate Central’s funding was changed to reflect that the group is partially funded, not endowed, for several years to come.]