Neil deGrasse Tyson (AP/Frank Micelotta)

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Miles O'Brien slam CNN for giving equal airtime to science deniers

Tyson interviewed former CNN science reporter, Miles O'Brien, who called CNN the "Wal-Mart" of journalism

Sarah Gray
May 20, 2014 6:00PM (UTC)

On the most recent episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson's radio program, "Star Talk," the "Cosmos" host spoke to science journalist Miles O'Brien, about the current state of science reporting -- and journalism in general.

O'Brien was formerly CNN's science reporter, until the unit was disbanded in 2008. At CNN he covered all manners of space, the environment and technology. (As of March 2014, O'Brien is back on CNN as an "aviation specialist.")


On "Star Talk," O'Brien blasted his former employer for their "balanced" approach to tackling science -- especially climate change, an issue where 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening, and that it is man made. (A recent CNN "Crossfire" debate highlights the issues with the approach of giving climate deniers and scientists equal time.)

“Is it fair in a story about climate change, which is clearly what I’m talking about, to do this journalistic convention of equal time for both sides?" O'Brien asks. "This is a huge mistake for journalism.”

Tyson agreed, saying that this approach to journalism means “one person to represent that 5 percent, but then he gets 50 percent of your time.”


“Is that serving the truth?” O’Brien asked. “As a matter of fact, that is feeding obfuscation — perpetuating a myth, dare I say, a lie.”

Tyson theorized that this often inaccurate need for balance comes from the fact that journalists traditionally cover issues like politics, which have many sides to a debate.

To that O'Brien replied:


“We’re in the boutique age of journalism. CNN is just the department store — the Wal-Mart of journalism, and think about what that does to quality. There is room for a Madison Avenue boutique, then, for people who care about things that are specific to them, and they will seek you out.”

The entire radio program can be listened to below:

Recently, comedian John Oliver sought to rectify the imbalance of climate debates, by hosting a more representative one: three climate change deniers, and 97 scientists.

h/t Raw Story

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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Journalism Miles O'brien Neil Degrasse Tyson Science Science Deniers Science Journalism Video

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