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The sad demise of ‘On Line Opinion’

By Clive Hamilton - posted Wednesday, 2 July 2008


The editors' appeal to the principles of good journalism to defend the publication of denialist anti-science, but have failed their readers by breaking another tenet of journalistic ethics. The lead author of "The UN climate change numbers hoax", Tom Harris, is described by On Line Opinion at the end of the article as "an Ottawa-based mechanical engineer and Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition".

What readers were not told is that Harris is a paid lobbyist for energy companies, that he has tried to change his Wikipedia entry to conceal the fact that he is or has been employed by the PR company High Park Group, and that at least one other website has pulled his articles because he is a paid political lobbyist. [Editor's note. Harris contacted us complaining about this paragraph. Our investigations indicate that there is no evidence he has ever been employed as a lobbyist, but that High Park Group does act as a lobbyist from time to time. The claim about a website pulling his articles is false. This blog post explains in more detail.]

None of this information is hard to find. See, for example here.

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On Line Opinion readers are being misled by denying them this information, which would be mandatory in any newspaper opinion piece.

The editors of On Line Opinion cannot consistently appeal to one tenet of journalism (so-called balance) and ignore others (allowing the reader to know the relevant affiliations of its authors).

In short, On Line Opinion has been captured by propagandists. For some years, On Line Opinion fulfilled a very useful role in Australian political life. Sadly, it has decided to change. I for one will not be paying it any more attention.

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About the Author

Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics.

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