Meanwhile, Eilperin reported, Danish prime minster Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who is chairing the high-level sessions, exchanged barbs about procedural issues with China’s chief negotiator, Su Wei, while an unnamed “official from an industrialized nation” said “it’s not clear that China wants a deal.”

The one sign of seeming agreement, on a plan to reduce emissions through forest conservation, was itself a bone of contention—yet another example of how difficult it is to cover the front and back stories of climate change, giving the range of worldwide views on any given issue. A noisy video by The New York Times’s Andrew Revkin showed representatives of indigenous people inside the conference halls protesting the deal over forest conservation. The Times’s front-page story by Elisabeth Rosenthal about the forest conservation plan did not carry a word of skepticism about the wisdom of pursuing the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) strategy.

Other outlets were, appropriately, much more skeptical. The Guardian carried a good rundown of important details missing from the draft agreement. “Protection of natural forests does appear explicitly in the text for the first time, and a safeguard on conversion of natural forests to plantations has reappeared, but neither are mandated,” John Vidal noted. Kenya’s largest newspaper, the Daily Nation observed that arguments over “what constitutes a forest could undermine an agreement to protect forests.”

As such, The Nation’s EnviroNation blog rightly explained that although the Times had “breathlessly reported” the the forest conservation plan was all but signed, “the reality … is much more complex.” Indeed, two days ago the Associated Press’s Michael Casey had reported that “a lack of money could hurt” the forest deal, and that language calling for reducing deforestation 50 percent by 2020 had been struck from the text being considered. The Times of London reported Thursday, however, that “The conference was given another shot in the arm tonight when a group of developed nations, including Britain and the United States, announced $3.5 billion in fast start funding over the next three years towards slowing - and eventually halting - deforestation.”

Outside the Bella Center conference hall, where the summit is being held, the protests by thousands of activists at the lack of progress at the meeting were captured in graphic photographs and video (see footage at the U.K.’s Telegraph and BBC News) showing Copenhagen police in riot gear trying to contain the crowd.

Media coverage of the final days of the Copenhagen summit continues its crescendo, as an interesting timeline on Google depicts (about a seven-fold upswing in the number of sources covering this story over the past two days). Over at Twitter, the Purdue University’s Need4Feed tool shows the traffic has been intense for the past three days, hitting about 11,000 daily tweets Monday and Tuesday, and likely to go higher today (already at nearly 13,000 at 3:30 p.m. EST).

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Curtis Brainard and Cristine Russell are CJR contributors. Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, our online critique of science and environment reporting. Russell, a CJR contributing editor, is the president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and a senior fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She is a former Shorenstein Center fellow and Washington Post reporter.