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« Climate cuttings 12 | Main | Roger Harrabin »

BBC Environment reporters

Incidentally to my research on the previous posting, I came upon the surprising fact that Roger Harrabin is a graduate in English.

I don't know about you, but I find it pretty gobsmacking that someone who is paid to interpret complex scientific papers and reports on our behalf doesn't actually have a flaming clue what any of it means. In fact take that back, he presumably doesn't read any of the papers at all because he is incapable of understanding them. He regurgitates press releases for a living.

He's semi-educated.

It does rather explain the quality of some of his reporting though. 

And what about the rest of the BBC's environment team?

  • Margaret Gilmore was an environment correspondent until 2005. She studied English.
  • Tom Fielden, science and environment correspondent - not sure what subject he studied, but it wasn't scientific
  • Richard Bilton, previously environment reporter - studied Communication
  • Matt McGrath and Julian Pettifer - I can find no record of them ever having been to university, although presumably they must have been.

So here's the challenge: can anyone find a BBC environment reporter with a scientific background?


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Reader Comments (18)

No wonder Harrabin thinks ""Al Gore, an environmental science graduate""
Oct 13, 2007 at 12:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Englishman
It was the last section of Harrabin's report (which I found via your piece) which intrigued me. He seems to have grasped the importance of the 800 year lag, but doesn't seem to understand how this undermines the whole AGW edifice. It was this which made me wonder if he just wasn't the sharpest tool in the box.
Oct 13, 2007 at 5:42 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
This is a good point Bishop. The media are simply very bad at science. Even science correspondents are often just as unqualified. This is not a problem limited to the BBC and the environment.

And it shows. Whether it is the environment, or wifi, or MMR, reporters rarely have the skills or inclination, it seems, to tell the difference between the scientist and the fraud with shares in tinfoil hats.

(PS I had an answer to your question in the last post I was commenting on, but the post appeared to stop accepting comments.)
Oct 13, 2007 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Otten

I was going to cover science reporters too, but got bored! I agree that it's a problem elsewhere in the media, but I'm not sure it's quite as bad. I know Anjana Ahuja at the Sunday Times is a PhD for example.

Of course, I throw stones at the BBC because I'm forced to pay for them.

The thread on Climate Cuttings 11 works fine for me. Is it still broken for you? And if so, which browser are you using?
Oct 14, 2007 at 2:39 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Palab Gosh (BBC Radio Science) has a science degree from Imperial College. He may be the only one though
Oct 15, 2007 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJC
I work as the Science and Environment Correspondent for the BBC in the Midlands.
I have a PhD in Physics.
Oct 18, 2007 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Gregory (BBC)
It is of course preferable to have those who share scientific news with us, especially where journalistically challenging, to be as qualified as possible. However to an extent I find this a slight red herring, and by playing the person we ignore not just the ball but the playing field.

In matters of Global Warming, climate change, MMCC or man-worsened climate change, from Mr. Gore to the IPCC to Bjorn Lomborg to... [it's a long list] there are a bunch of folk who either are, or quote, scientists who I presume have told them stuff. And I can honestly say that black could still equally be white in matters green from what I see served.

For sure a trusted reporter with the skill sets should be able to cut to the quick, but if the agenda surrounding him/her/them is not too keen on personal integrity (which all too easily can become subjective opinion), then it really matters little what the mouthpiece is. It's more who decides to stick 'em up there and what they get told, or choose to mouth.

I don't think he could have been trusted as an expert on much more than Spitfires (if he was more qualified I apologise to his memory), but I certainly hung on every fact that Raymond Baxter came out with as much as those from James Burke on Tomorrow's World. Because I trusted the system and the programme. Of course, I now wonder what I may have been spun even back then.

I have 2/3 of a vet degree (sheep breathe easier) and a Civ. Eng (Hons), but in the sound bite culture of today... so what? I still would prefer to see pols challenged by a Paxman... so long as he is well, and objectively, briefed.

And speaking of pols in this context, is it not amazing that we are lead at Cabinet level by folk who often get rotated in matters of months between amazingly diverse and complex areas of expertise. How many posts did Dr. (of what?) Reid hold?

But I totally agree with the basic critique in this case. Mr. Harrabin seems incapable of even getting basic facts straight, let alone challenging scientific matters of interpretation adequately.
Oct 18, 2007 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter

I knew there must be someone! Are they trying to keep the educated personnel locked away in local news?
Oct 18, 2007 at 12:13 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
By far the best qualified science correspondent working for the BBC was Dr David Whitehouse - who has a doctorate in astrophysics and a string of other degrees and top awards. He really knew the science and the philosophy of science better than anyone else at the BBC.
But I guess that the BBC found that a tad inconvienient as they decided they had enough science correspondents and made David compulsorily redundant in 2006.
Oct 18, 2007 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterScience Observer
Puzled by the last post I googled David Whitehouse and found his website. I would like to ask if what Science Observer says is true and if any of the current BBC science have won any awards for their journalism like Dr Whitehouse has many times. Then I would ask the question why the BBC fired its most award laden science correspondent. Was it, I wonder, because he doesn't toe the party line on the consensus and asked difficult and awkward questions of the BBC?
Oct 18, 2007 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterPuzzled
He does seem to have written an article suggesting that the sun might be behind climate change. I don't suppose that went down well with his superiors.
Oct 18, 2007 at 7:08 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
"Tucked away"? Well you could look at it like that! I have worked down in London on and off, being Science Corr at 5 Live, News 24 and even had a stint at the ill fated BBC Three news. But I really enjoy working and living in the Midlands so am happier here. and of course I do still end up on network tv and radio now and again. Possibly more often after this latest round of redundancies...

As for David Whitehouse, well he was a bit of a mentor of mine. I'll send him a link to this discussion, so he may well choose to comment himself.

I thought Pallab G had a PhD as well actually... but I may be wrong about that.
Oct 19, 2007 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Gregory (BBC)

Was David Whitehouse fired for his views on the solar influence on climate or for allowing these kinds of views to be heard?
Oct 20, 2007 at 12:53 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
I looked on the BBC website and Dr David Whitehouse is certainly the only BBC correspondent who has written stories that questioned the consensus. None of the others mentioned have done that.

If the BBC did sack him for being too scientifically literate then it's a scandal and we should be told.

Or does the BBC think that a degree in English is a suitable qualification to be an "environment alalyist?"
Oct 22, 2007 at 12:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterStill puzzled
This is yet another example of political correctness gone wild. What's wrong with just printing the original story and not worrying about what the global warming people think about it? If they have any brains at all, the global warming people could present counter-arguments to the article and a good debate could ensue. Instead, we have a BBC reporter folding under pressure rather than reporting the truth.

Has the UK finally gone over the edge into madness?
Apr 9, 2008 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterPoliticallly Incorrect
Madness? Probably.
Apr 9, 2008 at 5:23 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
british Universities are producing fewer and fewer real scientist, owing to "cuts" (Labour ones.) Those which get through, tend to go abroad get better opportunities and to pay fof debt.
Real scientists are far too busy trying to do science, to be able to engage in false journo occupations where they can talk about smoke and mirrors and witchcraft.
I doubt if the BBC would actually employ a proper scientist for this - they might not like what they hear.

Here's what the Green Milibanana Terror has in store for us today:-
Jul 16, 2009 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Davis
To "Politically-Incorrect:-

We should, none of us, ever /ever/ ever say things like "political Correctness gone wild" (or "mad" - whatever.) this statement imputes reason and logic and benignity to a /small measure of/ political correctness, when none of it, ever, was, is or will be intended to be anything other that the quintessence of ultra-rational-wickedness. it is highly rational )and not mad at all) in its quite frankl;y expressed and exact objective of removing words and thoughts from discourse, to that specific things can't be said or even thought.
Jul 16, 2009 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Davis

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