Thursday, September 2, 2010

Discovery Channel Hostage Situation

Yesterday a man armed with guns and bombs held people captive at the Discovery Channel's offices in Maryland, before he was shot by police. He was shot and killed after a three hour standoff, when according to police, it seemed like he was going to harm the three men he was holding hostage.

The Washington Post's article on the shooting:

Among the shooters demands was for the Discovery Channel to alter their programming to do more to improve global warming. Now, I believe in global warming and society's negative impact on our natural environments, but blaming the Discovery Channel for not doing enough? Really? What about government and industry? If the hostage-taker had lived, I'd be interested to see if he mounted a mental defense because its basically madness.

The Discovery Channel isn't a news source, they feature science-related programming (some of which is about global warming) but their purpose is to entertain while educating on a variety of topics. The company is a part of the entertainment business. Its like getting mad at Nickelodeon for not going enough to stop domestic violence just because their programs cater to children and families.

Even if the Discovery Channel wanted to do a plethora of news-based programs on global warming, who is to say that anyone would watch them? Part of what I do as a science writer is try to make science appealing to the public, and trust me its not easy to compete with celebrity gossip and the latest sports scores. Global warming is particularly difficult to report on, because the very nature of science and the evidence for a warming trend is open to change. Try to convince the masses that you are absolutely sure that something is happening, when new findings constantly emerge, and well-credentialed "experts" openly disagree on the topic. I think the challenge that has been presented to reporters is to make global warming stories pressing and moving, so the public wants to hear about it.