McAleer-Gore Exchange: The Backstory and Background Links


On October 9, 2009, a crowd of over 500, many of them journalists, packed a hotel ballroom in Madison, Wisc., for a session on climate change titled "Countdown to Copenhagen." The keynote speaker was former Vice President Al Gore, whose 2006 film "An Inconvenient Truth," won an Academy Award and was considered a box office success.

The session was part of the Society of Environmental Journalists' 2009 Annual Conference. All sessions at SEJ annual meetings end with a period when reporters can ask questions of speakers.

The second questioner to the microphone after Gore's Oct. 9 speech was Phelim McAleer, an independent film-maker who had just finished a film, "Not Evil Just Wrong." According to the film's website, it is critical of Gore, the idea that the world is getting warmer and humans are causing it, and proposals (championed by Gore) for reducing greenhouse emissions through laws and treaties.  The film debuts on October 18, 2009.
This is the transcript of the exchange between McAleer and Gore.

After the two began repeating themselves, moderator Andy Revkin and former SEJ President Tim Wheeler asked McAleer to sit down and let the many journalists lined up  to ask questions behind him have a chance in the 10 or so minutes remaining. When McAleer refused to relinquish the mic, SEJ switched to a questioner at the second mic.

McAleer violated SEJ's longstanding ground rules for question and answer sessions. Here is the memo given to all moderators at SEJ conferences.
The memo to moderators stresses: "Discourage speech-making. Cut offenders off politely but firmly. … Your job is to conserve time, keep the discussion moving and generally make this time as useful to journalists as possible."
The memo goes on: "SEJ's most consistent complaint on evaluations over the years: Moderators allowed panelists to ramble or lost control of the point of the session. I don't think we've ever had a complaint of a moderator being too tough trying to keep things focused and moving right along."