A few days ago an insider at the industry friendly Heartland Institute reportedly released some internal emails and other documents. One of them seems to feature Anthony Watts of the climate change denier site WhatsUpWithThat in a very bad light:
(ThinkProgress) — Watts has deep expertise in web site design and is well known and well regarded by weathermen and meteorologists everywhere. The new site will be heavily promoted on WatsUpWithThat. … Heartland has agreed to help Anthony raise $88,000 for the project in 2011. The Anonymous Donor has already pledged $44,000 ..
It’s unclear who leaked the material or if it’s been doctored in any way. But the posted document suggests Watts was to be paid, or was in fact paid, exorbitantly — the figures I’ve heard rumored is about $75,000 on this single deal. Given that Watts continues to post what climate experts call misleading information sympathetic to the fossil fuel industry, even when a study he championed for years was conducted late last year and found the same degree of warming other scientists have presented in years past, it looks an awful lot like a big fat payoff was or is in the works, from the energy industry directly to Mr. Watts for his “work.” It would also help explain why an obscure former meteorologist would shoot to the top of the traffic stats in such a short span of time; that kind of money, which is many, many times what even most paid blogger make in a year, would pay a handsome salary with enough left over to buy key advertising on right-wing sites, provide for travel to important conferences and gifts for influential people, and cover state of the art computers and other blogging tools. I don’t know that that happened, but as someone with “considerable experience” in new media communication I can sure see how it could.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bloggers being paid. Ahem. If a think-tank or an ANONYMOUS DONOR wanted to give me five figures in cash that wouldn’t be an ethical dilemma. But it wouldn’t change what or how I write, outside of equipping me with better computers and apps anyway, and possibly freeing me from the dead end cube farm where I spend most of my day allowing me to post more often, and I wouldn’t hide it. Far from it! I’d be bragging about it to anyone who would listen and probably writing grateful posts as sweet as any love letter thanking the person or organization.
Until this is cleared up I think it’s reasonable to suspect anything Mr. Watts says or writes, unless he is speaking under oath and penalty of perjury. That’s the breaks when your credibility takes this kind of hit.