In my opinion, there are two major points of interest, one concerning the (change of) content, and the other one concerning the specific journalistic perspective. Both are closely interrelated, which makes things really interesting. The articles give a great insight into the blurring boundaries between science, media and the public.
Concerning the changes from the previous (English) spiegel-online version to the one in nature geoscience, the following paragraph i of special interest:
The last IPCC report, which was issued in 2007, forecast an ocean level rise of up to 59 centimeters by the end of the century. Now, the UN experts must once again sift through hundreds of reports, and the haggling over their findings is not unlike the bargaining for the best price at the bazaar. On the one hand, researchers have published forecasts that are far higher than the result reported in the last IPCC report. On the other, sea level measurements have yet to prove any meaningful rise though there is agreement that they are, on global average, rising.nature geoscience:
In 2007, the latest IPCC report predicted sea-level rise of up to 59 cm by the end of the century — plus a potential contribution of unknown magnitude from poorly understood ice dynamics in Greenland and Antarctica. Since then, researchers have published alarming sea-level projections that far exceed the range of the 2007 report (for example, Geophys. Res. Lett. 37, L07703; 2010). However, actual measurements of sea level do not back up these projections. So far, scientists have neither observed an extreme rise nor reached a consensus on the question of whether sea level has been going up more quickly in recent years. There is only one certainty: in global average terms, the water is rising"A potential contribution" was added to the 59cm; the bazaar disappeared; a scientific reference was added, forecasts have turned into projections.
Another noteworthy difference is the complete disappearance of Stefan Rahmstorf in the new nature geoscience version. In the spiegel article, he played the role of the extreme sea-level-rise advocate; in the new one, James Hansen is left alone with a blank 5 meter rise until the end of the century (Hansen's statement was expressed with more caution in the spiegel article).
[On the funny side we can note that our Eduardo Zorita in the first version still correctly worked at the Helmholtz Zentrum; now he is put back to work at the more familiar GKSS -:)]
I am sure that the expert will discover more interesting changes or corrections. As his climate reporting colleagues at spiegel-online, Bojanowski is well read and knows the difference between journalism and science; he added references and tempered his expressive vocabulary (bazaar); on the other hand, the lively discussions on the extended peer-review platforms in the blogosphere (maybe including klimazwiebel?) and discussions at the journalism-science interface such as workshops or conferences (where spiegel journalists quite frequently show up), may have left their traces in the new version.
But for me the even more exciting contribution is a comment by Alex Bojanowski in nature geoscience about "The journalist's take", which is added in an extra box. Here he reflects on his own role and the relation between media, science and the public. After stating that "Climate research is a difficult subject for a journalist", and that the topic usually tends to "generate vigorous debate", he positions himself as a journalist:
And the difficulties don’t end there. On some key questions, such as future sea-level rise, the scientists just do not know the answer. The worried public expects reliable prognoses nevertheless. The politicization of climate change does not help either. Open public debate of new research is often seriously hampered: for fear of being pigeonholed as ‘sceptics’ or ‘alarmists’, journalists as much as scientists often do not air their criticisms. But of course, asking critical questions is not a sign of malice. From a reporter’s point of view, it is essential to challenge what you hear: it marks the boundary between advertising and journalism.From here, he names the three basics each student of media studies knows by heart:
• Relevance: sea-level rise is directly important to many people, not only for coast dwellers but also for everyone whose taxes will be spent on coastal protection.
• Bad news makes ‘good’ news: people want know when danger is looming.
• Status: the UN, the world’s most senior international organization, addresses the question.
So far, so good. I think Alex Bojanowski does here a great job in easily transcending the borders between journalism and science. He reads and quotes relevant scientific literature, while keeping an outsider status at the same time. His narrative frame is the IPCC group of 18 scientists from 10 countries, who will have to make a decision; I admittedly cannot judge how much of this is just made-up for illustration or if this is really the case - isn't the IPCC decision making process more complex in reality? Anyway, the courageous journalist goes into the lion's den, and one can hear almost the grunting of the lions who fight for telling their piece of truth or else....
The blurring of the boundaries takes place from both sides, of course. Scientists have long discovered the role of narrative strategies, too - many of them are omnipresent in the media. Furthermore, the scientific debate is for sure influenced by the public debate, which is channeled by journalists such as Bojanowski.