Monday, April 04, 2005

Why senior columnists still need editors

With apologies to Steve Simmons, I had the displeasure Saturday of reading the stupidest "sports" column in recent memory. Prepare to be chilled, it's:
An ozone effect Bush can't ignore--Rich Republicans won't be impressed with PGA rainouts

I've disliked Cam Cole for as long as I can remember, due mostly to his many years worshipping Glen Sather at the Edmonton Journal. But never before have I read one of his columns and seriously wondered if it was ghostwritten by a particularly hacky commenter at Kos. Here's Cam Cole's Musings, p. FW12 of the Saturday National Post ($ubscription req'd for online version):
Items that may grow up to be columns, Vol. VII, Chapter 1:

It will take more than tsunamis, more than mudslides, more than wildfire-causing droughts, more than brown air, epidemic asthma and holes in the ozone layer. What it will really take, for corporate America to really start giving the Bush administration hell about the dire effects of global warming, is for a few more PGA Tour events to get drowned or shortened by rains of Biblical proportions.

Golf, man. Now that's something rich Republicans really care about.

OK, so we have the little Republican slur tossed in, fine. We also have multiple and undefended assertions, direct and implied: global warming exists; the effects are dire; the effects are the cause of any recent natural disaster you would care to name; humans have the ability to do something about it; and both the responsibility and the power to do something about it rests with the Bush administration.

Junk science and America-bashing is not unusual in Canadian newspapers, but that doesn't excuse it. However, I'm inclined to give it the "Whatever!" reaction, since the wording is such that it could plausibly be defended as 'opinion'. (Add to that the fact that his central argument--that the interruption of some golf tournaments could serve as impetus to turn America's environmental policies and economy upside down--is so ridiculous that maybe it should be dismissed entirely as a lame attempt at humour).

Alas, he continues:
With play having not yet started at the BellSouth Classic outside Atlanta, where 36 holes ought to have been played by now, the count is now eight of 14 golf tournaments already plagued by crappy weather in 2005, as the change in the world's weather patterns continues to accelerate.

Although this paragraph is not near as inflammatory at those preceding, it is much more inexcusable. It has four parts: Fact #1, Fact #2, Fact #3 (all verifiable in 30 seconds at Yahoo! Sports), and "as the change in the world's weather patterns continues to accelerate". You simply cannot toss off a statement like that as fact. My letter to the editor goes something like this:
I was intrigued by a sentence fragment in Cam Cole's Saturday column. What exactly did he mean by "the world's weather patterns"? Who measures and quantifies how they change? And is it true that they are not only changing, but that the change is accelerating? I eagerly await your reply.

Oh, and also, the column headline is "An ozone effect Bush can't ignore". Are the PGA rainouts this year in some way connected to the ozone layer? I am interested to learn more.


Keep That Crap Out of the Sports Section!

Actually, since the column is sub-headed "Items that may grow up into columns", I guess I'm calling Cole's bluff. I invite him to write a column-length defense of his weather theories, and the underlying political issues and their solutions. Good luck with that Section A editor, Cam!


At 4:58 p.m., Blogger Jay said...

I've been hesitant to fisk things around April Fools- did Cam just file a doozy one day after?


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