You know the press is failing in its obligations when a politician has to instruct it on honesty and integrity.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg just sent a letter to the Washington Post taking them to task for bogus “he said – she said” journalism on the subject of global warming. The article in question, by Juliet Eilperin, discussed a recent study on heat waves caused by climate change. Says Lautenberg:

But the last half of the article is squandered on the views of Myron Ebell, an economist — not a climate scientist — whose “studies” at the American Enterprise Institute are funded by Exxon Mobil. The article fails to mention this shameless conflict of interest.

The problem with this type of reporting was highlighted at a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing. Robert Correll, senior fellow at the American Meteorological Society, warned, “The trouble with a debate of this nature is you put 2,600 [scientists] against two or three or four [scientists who disagree].” Ebell is not in the same league as the qualified climate scientists who report that the climate is changing before our eyes; only the intensity and the speed of those changes are unknown. Your newspaper does an injustice to its readers by giving Ebell’s caterwauling equal weight with the widely accepted views of reputable and unbiased scientists.

That’s exactly right. Eilperin is an excellent reporter, and I don’t know what kind of pressure she’s under from higher-ups, but she — and environmental reporters generally — needs to take a stand and stop watering her pieces down with this sort of misleading faux-balance.

UPDATE: Well, egg on my face. Both Chris Mooney and RealClimate beat me to the punch.