The New York Times turned down the Watergate story, giving the Washington Post ownership of the story of the decade. Now the Washington Post is going for a repeat, scooping the somnolent Times on the Climategate story. The Post story by Juliet Eilperin and David A. Farenholdt is no skeptic’s dream, but Post readers now know something that Times readers are still in the dark about: the climate change movement has taken a serious hit in recent weeks as allegations of misconduct and high profile errors undermine the credibility of the key institutions and figures in the movement.
The Times‘ behavior is increasingly hard to explain. In the last month the paper has given away a huge story once again, this time handing it over to the British press overseas and, over here, to the blogosphere and, finally and belatedly, the Washington Post. Coming at a time when the Times is on the defensive in terms of its journalistic reputation and its financial health, the impact of the current failure is likely to be significantly greater. Authority is the Times‘ most important asset; by missing Climategate the Times is not only doing its readers a serious disservice. It is reinforcing the narrative that the Grey Lady of the mainstream media is too slow, too hampered by inhibitions and bias, too close to its sources, to serve as a reliable source for news.