From the November 2 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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From the November 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Sunday:
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As newspapers' ad revenues have fallen over the years, prestigious publications have been going to increasingly extraordinary lengths to make up for the financial shortfall. Consider the Los Angeles Times, which has recently provided prime front page real estate to advertisements for companies like American Airlines and products like the Universal Studios film, Minions.
But while these kinds of advertising arrangements aren't particularly new for the Times, the same cannot be said for a newly-launched oil industry propaganda website the newspaper created for California Resources Corporation, an oil and gas spin-off company of Occidental Petroleum. The website, called poweringcalifornia.com, has raised concerns despite assurances from the Times that it is produced by a department of the Times company that is wholly independent of the reporting and editorial staff.
The Powering California website features a fearmongering video that asks viewers to "imagine a day without oil" as a young man helplessly watches many of the products he relies on every day suddenly disappear. The site's text asserts that because "a majority of products that you use every day are made from petroleum," a day without oil and natural gas "would be a huge disruption for you and the people you depend on." It goes on to allege that a day without oil could even be "life-threatening."
After Western States Petroleum Association President Cathy Reheis-Boyd promoted the website in an October 27 tweet, it caught the attention of Clean Energy California, a non-profit organization that worked with businesses, consumer, health, faith, labor and environmental groups to pass Senate Bill 350, California's landmark climate change legislation. Specifically, Clean Energy California asked why the Los Angeles Times and its parent company, Tribune Publishing, were sponsoring this "oil propaganda project."
As Politico reported on October 29, the original disclaimer on the Powering California website identified it as "a joint copyrighted effort of the Los Angeles Times and the California Resources Corporation":
Following criticism from Clean Energy California and others, the Times changed the copyright disclaimer to remove mention of itself and added an additional statement on the Powering California website that read:
Powering California is sponsored content produced by The Los Angeles Times Content Solutions team for California Resources Corporation. The Los Angeles Times reporting and editing staffs are not involved in the production of sponsored content, including Powering California.
But the updated disclaimer has not settled all of the concerns that have been raised about a major U.S. newspaper company sponsoring an oil industry propaganda website.
In an October 30 article, LA Weekly wrote that "[e]ven as the Times was publishing [a] hard-hitting story" detailing evidence that ExxonMobil may have purposely deceived its shareholders about climate change science, "the business side of the paper was presenting a much rosier view of the oil industry through a sponsored content campaign." Noting that the Times' editorial board recently suggested that California legislators had fallen for "oil industry propaganda," LA Weekly observed that it is "thus a little awkward, or at least ironic, that the Times is simultaneously getting paid to create promotional material for the oil industry." (It's worth pointing out that the Times' recent environmental coverage hasn't all been good; the newspaper also received heavy criticism from scientists for publishing a deeply flawed article that disputed the link between California's recent wildfires and climate change.)
LA Weekly concluded by noting that even though it could be argued the oil industry is helping fund journalism that is sometimes aimed at "exposing" the oil industry, "some in the environmental community see this as a troubling sign":
"I understand the concept behind sponsored content, but when it's being used to defeat climate action by Big Oil, it goes way beyond Zappos," said Jonathan Parfrey, executive director of Climate Resolve. "To see the most prestigious paper in the Western U.S. cozying up to these well-heeled interests is deeply disturbing."
From the October 29 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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From the October 28 edition of CNBC's Fast Money Halftime Report:
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Climate activists are calling on National Geographic to hire a public editor to keep tabs on its editorial approach following the magazine's purchase by a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Murdoch has repeatedly made scientifically inaccurate comments about climate change, and recently lamented "alarmist nonsense" on the issue.
The National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox announced last month an expansion of their current partnership to include National Geographic's cable channels, its flagship magazine, and other digital and social media.
As National Geographic explained, "Under the $725-million deal, Fox, which currently holds a majority stake in National Geographic's cable channels, will own 73 percent of the new media company, called National Geographic Partners. The National Geographic Society will own 27 percent."
"We will now have the scale and reach to fulfill our mission long into the future," National Geographic Society CEO Gary E. Knell said at the time. "The Society's work will be the engine that feeds our content creation efforts, enabling us to share that work with even larger audiences and achieve more impact. It's a virtuous cycle."
In an interview with Media Matters shortly after the announcement of the deal, National Geographic editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg said she was "not concerned" about News Corp.'s history and its ties to Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets that routinely promote misinformation on climate change. "21st Century Fox is an enormously large creative global company that has lots of different properties operating underneath that umbrella," Goldberg said at the time. Goldberg also stressed that James Murdoch -- not his father Rupert -- is the head of 21st Century Fox. (The younger Murdoch was installed as CEO of 21st Century Fox in July, while Rupert is now executive co-chairman of 21st Century with his other son, Lachlan.)
While both National Geographic and 21st Century Fox have pledged that National Geographic will maintain its editorial independence, at least three climate advocacy groups are urging National Geographic to hire a public editor to keep watch over its editorial product and ensure it remains a science-based news outlet, especially on the issue of climate change.
Online petitions from Climate Truth, Common Cause, and SumOfUs have drawn thousands of signatures urging National Geographic to bring in an independent observer to keep watch. The petitions were launched online shortly after the deal with 21st Century Fox was announced in September.
"[Rupert] Murdoch has a troubling history of editorial meddling, and there's no measures in place to assure his denial of climate science won't taint National Geographic's historically excellent coverage," the Climate Truth petition, which has gathered more than 25,000 signatures, states.
Brant Olson, Campaign Director for Climate Truth, said a public editor would help get concerns from readers to the editors.
"There is pretty widespread concern in the press and among our members after the announcement of the deal that one of the world's most well-respected brands of science is coming under control of a man who has not been shy about saying he doesn't believe in climate change," Olson said. "Elsewhere, when we have had concerns about coverage of climate change, we have engaged their public editor."
Olson cited two issues that were recently addressed at other media outlets when public editors and ombudsmen were contacted: The New York Times' misuse of the phrase "climate skeptics"; and PBS member stations having oil billionaire David Koch on their boards.
"Having a public editor offers a forum for readers and others to discuss matters of editorial oversight and interference," Olson added. "And why not do that at National Geographic? Historically, National Geographic has been fantastic and we hope that will continue in the future."
The magazine's recent climate change issue, which was released online earlier this month, seems to take a fair approach, with stories on reducing carbon emissions, dangerous rising sea levels, and promoting wind and solar energy.
But not everyone is willing to take for granted that the climate change issue or the magazine's past climate coverage is a sign of things to come under Fox.
Common Cause Digital Campaign Organizer Jack Mumby said his group launched its petition for a public editor to help readers keep informed fairly.
"We believe that voters need a media ecosystem where scientific truth is accurately represented," he said. "We rely on a media that gives voters the information they need to cast their ballots. We want to make sure National Geographic does everything it can to make sure it remains a source of accurate information."
Noting its petition was posted in September, Mumby declares, "It will be up until the issue is resolved." He said the goal is to "make sure that the magazine is editorially independent, we want to hear what their plan is to make sure this change in ownership does not change the independent and science-based journalism voters rely on."
SumOfUs Senior Campaigner Katherine Tu also cited National Geographic's history of playing "a vital role in the fight against climate change," and expressed concern that "Murdoch has a well-known history of meddling with media outlets that he owns and could undermine National Geographic's historically excellent coverage."
More than 100,000 SumOfUs members have joined their campaign for a public editor, which Tu told Media Matters would protect the magazine's "independence" and "represent the interests of the public."
National Geographic says it has no plans to hire a public editor or ombudsman, claiming it deserves the benefit of the doubt and has no incentive to take a wrong turn in its climate coverage.
"We think our 127-year track record of science, research and storytelling in service illuminating the wonder, as well as the issues, of the planet speaks for itself, and find it interesting as well as kind of ironic that the petition was put forward the very week our all climate change issue was published," National Geographic Society Chief Communications Officer Betty Hudson said via email. "That said, we're very comfortable with the robust governance guidelines that National Geographic Partners has in place, and would repeat our shared belief that the essence of the value of the enterprise is ultimately connected to our brand integrity."
Hudson also referred to a statement the society issued to the petition groups after their online protests were posted, laying out how 21st Century Fox and National Geographic plan to maintain "editorial autonomy and mutual institutional respect":
National Geographic has had a nearly two decade long relationship with 21st Century Fox, and during that time has enjoyed editorial autonomy and mutual institutional respect, which we fully expect to continue going forward. The terms of the transaction include an expanded and specific governance framework designed to ensure that the content, publications and activities of NG Partners remain supportive of the mission of NGS and consistent with the National Geographic brand.
National Geographic Partners will be governed by an eight person board comprised of an equal number of representatives from the Society and 21CF. NGS President and CEO Gary Knell will serve as first Chair, a role that will alternate annually. Under the trademark license, NG Partners must adhere to a 300+ page Standards Guide that articulates the principles of the National Geographic Society as well as its content vision. The Society has the right to review and approve the NGPartners annual content plan as well as the annual marketing plan, and has the right to remove the Chief Executive Officer and/or the Chief Marketing Officer should brand integrity be compromised.
But all involved have spoken to the shared belief that the very value of the enterprise in which the Partners are investing resides in that brand integrity, and anything that undermines or dilutes that integrity damages the institution, as well as the investment.
From the October 27 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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CNBC will host the third GOP presidential primary debate on October 28, which is set to focus on economic issues. So will the network that describes itself as the "world leader in business news" ask the candidates to reconcile their positions on climate change with the views of prominent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte and many of America's leading businesses and financial leaders, who have expressed support for climate action and warned of the severe economic risks associated with unchecked global warming?
From the October 26 edition of Fox News' The Five:
Several media outlets have published op-eds by Monica Martinez, the president of a group called Hispanics in Energy, attacking net metering policies that support rooftop solar energy. But these outlets failed to disclose the ties Martinez's group has to numerous oil and utility companies -- including companies that are actively fighting net metering policies -- and many of Martinez's claims about the impact of net metering on low-income and minority communities are inaccurate.
The Los Angeles Times has published several letters to the editor by scientists and other experts criticizing its October 18 article that wrongly challenged the link between climate change and the wildfires that have been ravaging California. The Times article baselessly claimed that "experts" say California Gov. Jerry Brown's comments describing such a link are "unsupported," when in fact numerous scientists and major scientific reports have detailed the connection global warming has to both recent and future wildfires in the Southwest United States.
The assertions in the deeply flawed Times article were subsequently echoed by several on-air figures at the Fox News Channel, including Fox & Friends co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who declared: "Brown blamed wildfires on global warming, and now scientists say there's no data linking the two. How about that?" The Times story was also praised by right-wing outlet Breitbart News, in an article that directly contradicted the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of climate change.
On October 24, the Times published letters to the editor from three experts who, as the Times explained, "have written to say the article was wrong to assert that climate change isn't fueling the state's historically large fires." The experts included UC Berkeley environmental scientist Max Moritz, who said the "troubling" Times story "implies more uncertainty about climate change than there really is among experts;" Climate Resolve Executive Director Jonathan Parfrey, who said, "The Times really blew it in this piece;" and UCLA climate researcher Alex Hall, who said the article "misleads readers by implying that science" linking wildfires to climate change "has been disproved."
From the letters section of the October 24 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Max Moritz, a UC Berkeley environmental scientist, says raising awareness is what's important:
It's splitting hairs, as scientists often will, to note that we may not know conclusively whether climate change has caused this particular drought and these specific wildfires. As a wildfire scientist, I find it troubling that this nuance became front-page news because it implies more uncertainty about climate change than there really is among experts.
In fact, there is relatively strong agreement among fire scientists about links between climate change and wildfire, even if quantitative attribution poses challenges. To raise awareness about climate change and to reduce its long-term impacts, we need our leaders to speak out.
Climate Resolve executive director Jonathan Parfrey bluntly assesses the article:
The Times really blew it in this piece.
For example, the recent UC Irvine wildfire study was wildly misinterpreted. The Times failed to note the study's most likely outcome for the period of 2040-60: The area to be burned by Santa Ana-wind-induced fires will increase by 64%, and acres consumed by summer fires will increase by 77%.
It's important to get the science right because good science leads to good policy. And with higher temperatures predicted, Southern California will need to adapt to worsening fire conditions in our hills and mountains.
Alex Hall, director of the UCLA Center for Climate Change Solutions, clarifies what we do and don't know:
The article misleads readers by implying that science is in on this and any link between fires and climate change has been disproved. In fact, a detection-and-attribution study -- an analysis of the probability that the current fire season in California would play out as it has, if climate change were not in the picture -- has not been done.
Even if the link has not been definitively proved, the scientific works referenced in the article provide plenty of reason to suspect climate change is playing some role in the severity of this fire season. Climatologist Park Williams' study shows that human-caused warming is contributing to drier conditions, which would make fuels more susceptible to burning. The study I co-wrote with UC Irvine and UC Davis colleagues shows that heat is an important determinant of how much area is burned by fire -- particularly in those fires, like the ones we have been experiencing all summer, not driven by Santa Ana winds. So the warming climate we're already experiencing should increase the area burned.
The Times should take care to more accurately characterize scientific evidence in the future.
Image at top via the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Photostream on Flickr using a Creative Commons license.
Right-wing media frequently distort climate science in order to dispute the overwhelming consensus that human activities are responsible for climate change. But sometimes scientists fight back and stand up for their work. Here are nine times scientific researchers stood up to deniers who misrepresented their climate studies.
In coverage of GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio's newly released energy plan, which calls for expanding oil production and rolling back environmental safeguards against pollution, media are failing to mention that Rubio has received campaign funding from the oil billionaire Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests, and is reportedly a leading contender to benefit from hundreds of millions more in support from the Kochs.
Fox News devoted several segments to hyping a deeply flawed Los Angeles Times article that baselessly disputed California Gov. Jerry's Brown comments linking the state's spate of wildfires to climate change. Despite the fact that numerous scientists and major scientific reports have detailed the connection that global warming has to both recent and future wildfires in the Southwest -- and none of the experts cited in the Times article actually contradicted Brown's statements -- Fox News echoed the Times by asserting that climate scientists say there is "no data" to support a link between wildfires and climate change.
On the October 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck referenced the Times story in a news rundown, stating, "Scientists are shutting down California Governor Jerry Brown's comments on climate change. Brown blamed wildfires on global warming, and now scientists say there's no data linking the two. How about that?"
Later, on the October 19 edition of America's Newsroom, anchor Bill Hemmer introduced a segment about the Times article by stating: "You may recall some California lawmakers blaming climate change for the devastating wildfires in that state, but a number of climate scientists apparently saying that link does not have support." During the segment, Fox News chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt stated that the Times "spoke to a range of scientists" who are "saying it is not about climate change when you look at these fires." A nearly-identical report aired on that day's edition of Fox News' Happening Now.
From the October 19 edition of America's Newsroom:
BILL HEMMER: You may recall some California lawmakers blaming climate change for the devastating wildfires in that state, but a number of climate scientists apparently saying that link does not have support. Chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt's working that story, he's live in our bureau in Los Angeles, and what is Governor Jerry Brown's argument, Jonathan?
JONATHAN HUNT: Well, Governor Brown is leading the charge to link climate change to these fires. He's obviously seen large swaths of his state burn this year, the Rocky fire being one of the worst that we have seen in the state over last few months, and Governor Brown is very certain that he knows what is causing these fires. Listen here.
JERRY BROWN: My message is real clear: California is burning. What the hell are you going to do about it? Climate change does not wait for politicians, it just rolls forward, and that's why I'm stepping up my efforts to wake people up to get the proper action taken.
HUNT: And Governor Brown has a powerful ally in this, in President Obama, who's hosting an event at White House today at which climate change will be discussed. A fact sheet published by the White House for this event says, quote, countries and communities around the world are already being affected by deeper, more persistent droughts, pounded by more severe weather, inundated by bigger storm surges, and imperiled by more frequent and dangerous wildfires. And then you have Brown's, Governor Brown's senior environmental advisor, who says, Bill, that we should be fighting climate change on, quote, a World War III footing.
Bill: Wow. Scientists are arguing this in what way, Jonathan?
Reporter: Well, this is interesting, because you've got the L.A. Times now looking at this in some depth. The L.A. Times not a newspaper known for questioning the science of climate change, but they spoke to a range of scientists who said no, with these fires you need to look at the way we've developed the land, we need to look at the design of the homes being put on this land. One of them, Richard Halsey of the Chaparral Institute, said if we don't make changes there, then quote, the houses will keep burning down and people will keep dying. I don't believe that climate change discussion is helpful. So again, scientists saying it's not about climate change when you look at these fires, but you can always find one scientist to say one thing, one to say another. It's like that one-handed economic advisor former presidents have asked for, Bill.
Bill: Thank you, Jonathan. From Los Angeles, thank you, sir.
The Los Angeles Times reported that "scientists who study climate change and fire behavior" dispute California Gov. Jerry Brown's comments describing a link between the state's recent wildfires and climate change. However, numerous scientists and major scientific reports have detailed the connection that global warming has to both recent and future wildfires in the Southwest, including the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which stated that climate change has already "increased wildfires" in the Southwest region and could lead to "up to 74% more fires in California." Moreover, the experts cited by the Times do not contradict Brown's statements, and the only one who directly criticized Brown was Roger Pielke; it is unclear from the article whether it quoted Roger Pielke Sr. or Roger Pielke Jr., but both father and son have made dubious climate-related claims in the past that were debunked by climate scientists.