Aug
31
2012

Factchecking the Minnows and Letting the Whales Swim Away

Mitt Romney at the RNC

In an attempted factcheck of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech at the Republican convention, AP's Calvin Woodward (8/30/12) takes on Romney's big laugh line: President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.  My promise is to help you and your family. Woodward looked into it and found that, indeed, Obama had said something like that. But aren't the important factual questions here whether ocean levels actually are rising, and if so whether it's possible to do anything about them? (The answers are "yes" and "yes," as it turns out.) The Washington Post […]

Aug
23
2012

Missing From LAT Report on Romney's Energy Plan: Journalism

"Mitt Romney Sees Path to Energy Independence," an L.A. Times piece by Seema Mehta (8/22/12), doesn't mention climate change at all. It also doesn't mention tar sands, the Canadian oil deposits whose extraction would devastate the environment, even though that's what Romney's talking about when he says that approving the Keystone pipeline will be one of the keys to energy independence for "North America." Nor does it mention the ongoing ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, even though that's surely relevant to Romney touting offshore drilling as the other major piece of his energy plan. The story also leads […]

Jul
09
2012

The Future of the Planet? Get Over It

You would think–or maybe hope–that journalists who have to appear alongside climate change deniers would find it a bit awkward. It used to be that media were faulted for creating false "balance" in coverage of climate change–quoting reality-based scientists in roughly equal measure with non-scientists who either don't think there's a problem or don't think human activity has anything to do with it. That doesn't seem to be as much of a problem anymore (though it made a comeback after "Climategate"). But ABC has a built-in climate problem: The network's Sunday morning show regularly includes right-wing climate denier George Will, […]

Jul
02
2012

Do You Change the Weather When You Change the Climate? Yes

Illinois Drought

FAIR has noted the tendency of corporate media to play down the connection of extreme weather to climate change. (See Neil deMause's piece in Extra!, 8/11.) This summer, as the country is beset by another devastating wave of drought and fires, the approach seems to be to acknowledge climate change–in the 10th paragraph–but end up by concluding that it's impossible to say whether there's any connection between climate change and any particular weather phenomenon. As in this L.A. Times piece (7/2/12): Since 2000, it has not been uncommon for wildfire seasons to end with a tally of 7 million to […]

May
25
2012

It's Not About Climate Change–It's About Keeping Advertisers Happy

Scientific American has a dilemma (Extra!, 2/11): It takes advertising from oil companies whose profits depend on denying the most important scientific fact of our era, the reality of human-caused climate change. The magazine would lose its whole brand identity if it pretended global warming wasn't happening, but there are things short of that that will make its fossil-fuel-selling advertisers a little happier. Such as running blog posts like "It's Not About Tar Sands–It's About Us" by Melissa C. Lott and Scott McNally (5/23/12). Lott and McNally–both of whom have worked for the energy industry when they aren't science blogging–dispute […]

May
15
2012

Time Ignores Climate Change to Paint a 'Golden Age' of Fracking

You have to wonder: Do journalists covering energy issues imagine they and their loved ones are going to be living on another planet in the not-too-distant future? That seems like the only reason you would write a piece about the world discovering ways to extract and burn vast new quantities of hydrocarbons without mentioning one word about climate change. That's what Bryan Walsh gave us in the May 21 issue of Time magazine–an article about fracking that doesn't mention the technology's powerful contribution to global warming. The headline over this article: "The Golden Age." Walsh does refer to fracking's ecological […]

May
11
2012

Oily Propaganda on ABC World News

If you watch TV news you're bound to see a lot of commercials for oil companies. As Miranda Spencer reported in Extra! (2/12), there are far more commercials about energy companies and natural gas than there are actual news reports about controversial industry practices like hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." But then there are the news segments that might as well be commercials. Last night's ABC World News broadcast (5/10/12) featured a report on the oil boom in the Midwest that looked more like an ad than anything else. "A rising number of Americans are finding a windfall right where they […]

Feb
22
2012

Media's Weird Ethics: Pretending to Be Someone Else Is Worse Than Facilitating Global Catastrophe

There's a popular verb in headlines about climate researcher Peter Gleick's admission that he used trickery to get damning documents out of the climate change-denialist group the Heartland Institute: "Activist Says He Lied to Obtain Climate Papers" (New York Times, 2/21/12); "Scientist Peter Gleick Admits He Lied to Get Climate Documents" (L.A. Times, 2/21/12); "Climate Researcher Says He Lied to Obtain Heartland Documents" (WashingtonPost.com, 2/21/12). What you wouldn't gather from all these pants-on-fire condemnations is that there is a long and honorable tradition, from Nellie Bly feigning madness to expose mistreatment of the mentally ill to the Chicago Sun-Times' Mirage […]

Feb
02
2012

NYT and GOP's Keystone Talking Points

New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer (2/2/12) accurately reports how Republicans want to frame the disputed over the Keystone XL pipeline. But she does almost nothing to challenge that framing. Under the headline, "For GOP, Pipeline Is Central to Agenda," Steinhauer explains: Republicans are framing Keystone as an urgent jobs and energy project at a time of high unemployment and creeping gasoline prices, and trying to portray Mr. Obama as giving in to hard-left environmentalists in an election year at the expense of addressing both. Instead of challenging that narrative, the Times bolstered it, alluding to what Republican presidential candidates […]

Jan
03
2012

WaPo and Keystone False Balance

Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel has a column in the Washington Post today (1/3/12) outlining the three important election issues to watch–and one of them is about how the press covers the process: Third, the media's obsession with false equivalence: How the election is covered will almost certainly have a measurable impact on its outcome. The New York Times' Paul Krugman describes what he's witnessing as "post-truth politics," in which right-leaning candidates can feel free to say whatever they want without being held accountable by the press. There may be instances in which a candidate is called out for saying […]

Sep
09
2011

What Do You Call a Guy Like Rick Perry?

Frontrunner-of-the-moment Rick Perry is getting a lot of press for his performance at the recent Republican debate–especially because he's standing by his belief that Social Security is a "monstrous lie" and a Ponzi scheme, and that climate change is an untested theory advanced by corrupt, discredited scientists. You can call such ideas a lot of things. "False" or "untrue," for example, would work. But a lot of reporters characterized Perry's performance in positive terms. In today's New York Times (9/9/11), Michael Shear writes that Perry made clear in his first national appearance that he would campaign as an unabashed Southern […]

Aug
30
2011

Hurricanes and Climate Change? Close That Door!

In case you were wondering whether Irene sparked any discussions of climate change, here's a moment from the panel discussion on ABC's This Week (8/30/11): RON BROWNSTEIN (National Journal): Do we want to get into a global warming and a hurricanes discussion? DONNA BRAZILE (Democratic Strategist): No. BROWNSTEIN: I mean, I don't know if we want to open that door. Let that serve as a reminder to read Neil deMause's piece from the last issue of Extra! This was a laugh line, so I guess take it for what it's worth. On the other hand, Cokie Roberts seemed to be […]

Jun
10
2011

To WaPo, Planet's Fate Is a 'Second-Tier Issue'

The Washington Post had a piece yesterday (6/9/11) on Mitt Romney's views on global warming. It serves as a reminder that Republican political candidates are under enormous pressure from the right-wing base of the party on this issue–any politician who's ever suggested that climate change is a problem, or backed efforts to address it, is in trouble. This is an important thing to point out. But that doesn't mean the Post thinks climate change is important. See the article's lead sentence: It seemed like a straightforward question on a second-tier issue: Would Mitt Romney disavow the science behind global warming? […]