So, WCAX-TV has this daily interview program called “The :30.” A couple weeks ago, noted Vermont climatologist Alan Betts was scheduled as a guest to talk about his work on climate change and its implications for Vermont.
Emphasis on “was.”
From Paul “The Huntsman” Heintz at Seven Days…
…just hours before Betts was slated to appear, [WCAX producer Alexei] Rubenstein canceled. In an email, the producer explained that station “higher ups” had spiked the interview due to a lack of “opposing views.” In a separate phone call, Betts says, Rubenstein “said it’s because management is afraid of the hostile reactions they get.”
Profiles In Courage, Republican broadcaster style.
Former GOP functionary and current WCAX news director Anson Tebbetts had a different explanation:
“We were overwhelmed with material yesterday and wanted to do something more thoughtful and have a bigger discussion with those involved,” he says.
… Tebbetts says the station wasn’t necessarily looking to match Betts with a climate change denier. Rather, he’d like his audience to hear from representatives of the sugar and ski industries, and others affected by climate change.
Nope, sorry. Not buying it.
Rubenstein specifically said the cancellation was due to a lack of “opposing views.” (“Bob Hartwell, please pick up the fire-engine red courtesy phone.”) The sugar and ski industries would be “complementary,” not “opposing” views. In fact, I daresay those two industries are well aware of climate change and its existential threat to their businesses.
And even if Tebbetts is telling the truth — as opposed to frantically trying to cover his own ass — he’s missing the point. “Balance” and “context” isn’t something required of each and every single program or segment. It’s something to be achieved in the complete context of a media outlet’s work. You don’t have a Democrat on the air every time you have a Republican, and vice versa; but over time, you try to achieve some kind of balance.
As Heintz reports, “Betts was shocked” by the cancellation. He’s been studying climate change for three decades and given numerous talks and written commentaries around Vermont, and:
Never once, he says, has a news outlet demanded an “alternative viewpoint” to a phenomenon almost universally agreed upon by mainstream scientists.
Yeah, well, Mr. Betts, meet WCAX-TV, traditional supporter of conservative causes.