Scientists say that human-induced climate change made this year's record heat more likely, and project that extreme heat will become more common in the United States. But a Media Matters analysis of media coverage of record-breaking heat in July finds that major television outlets rarely made the connection between heat waves and a changing climate.
Major news networks have largely ignored Republican obstruction of a regulation addressing the recent resurgence of black lung, a disease caused by coal mine dust. By contrast, media coverage of the Republican narrative about "job-killing regulations" has been abundant, indicating that news outlets let the Republican Party define the media discourse about regulation of the coal industry.
While numerous factors determine the frequency, severity and cost of wildfires, scientific research indicates that human-induced climate change increases fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions. Seven of nine fire experts contacted by Media Matters agreed journalists should explain the relationship between climate change and wildfires. But an analysis of recent coverage suggests mainstream media outlets are not up to the task -- only 3 percent of news reports on wildfires in the West mentioned climate change.
Carbon dioxide emissions are not just warming up our atmosphere, they're also changing the chemistry of our oceans. This phenomenon is known as ocean acidification, or sometimes as global warming's "evil twin" or the "osteoporosis of the sea." Scientists have warned that it poses a serious threat to ocean life. Yet major American
news outlets covered the Kardashians over 40 times more often than ocean acidification over the past year and a half.
Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the oceans to become around 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, and if we do not lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the ocean surface could be up to 150 percent more acidic by 2100. At that level, the shells of some plankton would dissolve, large parts of the ocean would become inhospitable to coral reef growth, and the rapidity of the change could threaten much of the marine food web. According to the National Research Council, the chemical changes are taking place "at an unprecedented rate and magnitude" and are "practically irreversible on a time scale of centuries."
Despite a boom of recent scientific research documenting this threat, there has been a blackout on the topic at most media outlets. Since the end of 2010, ABC, NBC, and Fox News have completely ignored ocean acidification, and the Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, and CBS have barely mentioned it at all.
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court struck down three of the four contested provisions of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. In the wake of the decision, the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times all allowed anti-immigrant voices to peddle misinformation about the ruling's impact. The LA Times quoted an Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) statement while the Washington Post quoted both Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- a Southern Poverty Law Center labeled- hate group -- and Roy Beck of NumbersUSA, a group associated with white supremacists and the notorious anti-immigrant activist John Tanton. However, while both the LA Times and the Post gave limited space to these voices, the New York Times provided an extensive section to Mr. Stein and FAIR:
Both sides claimed on Monday that they had achieved important gains. Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, a group that supported Arizona, called the ruling "an important victory."
"Even if the Obama administration refuses to enforce most immigration laws, states have the power to deter and discourage illegal aliens from settling or remaining within their jurisdictions," Mr. Stein said.
He said the ruling, coupled with a Supreme Court decision last year that affirmed an Arizona law requiring employers to verify the legal immigration status of employees, gives states "broad latitude to carry out a policy of attrition through enforcement."
Mr. Stein's organization supported a small but determined corps of lawyers who created legal blueprints for Arizona's and other state laws that were intended to drive out illegal immigrants by making daily life impossible for them in this country.
As a Media Matters study previously found, the top five newspapers in America cited anti-immigrant groups hundreds of times since the introduction of SB1070 in January 2010. In addition, as was the case with FAIR's description here, the New York Times often whitewashed the group's ugly past, including its strong ties to Tanton and the fact that it has received over $1.2 million from the white supremacist Pioneer Fund. The Times had previously published two articles detailing the group's affiliations to Tanton and white nationalist organizations and acknowledging FAIR's effort to scrub Tanton's name from their website following the initial report.
Unfortunately, the Washington Post and the New York Times weren't the only ones to provide a platform for Stein to air his anti-immigrant views. Immediately following the ruling, CNN hosted Stein for an interview to air his reaction to the ruling. Unsurprisingly, CNN's John King also failed to note Stein's unsavory ties, instead calling FAIR "the country's largest immigration reform group."
A majority of federal rulings on the substance of President Obama's health care reform law have found it to be constitutional, including the law's mandate that individuals purchase health insurance. But a Media Matters review of the five largest newspapers and the flagship CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news programs finds that the media overwhelmingly focused on rulings that struck down the law in whole or in part -- 84 percent of segments on the broadcast and cable programs reviewed and 59 percent of newspaper articles that reported on such rulings -- while largely ignoring rulings that found it constitutional or dismissed the case.
As anti-immigrant legislation has flooded state houses from coast to coast over the past two years -- culminating most notably with the Supreme Court's review of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 -- the nation's print media have given voice to the anti-immigrant special interest groups cheerleading (and in some cases orchestrating) these initiatives. Many of these groups have ties to white nationalist organizations and racists, and at least one has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These extremist ties have not prevented the nation's most respected newspapers, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters, from citing the institutions as authorities on the immigration debate.
In fact, a Media Matters analysis of news coverage since SB 1070's introduction in January 2010 has discovered that the nation's top five newspapers (New York Times, L.A. Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post), the Associated Press, and Reuters have cited these groups over 250 times. Over that period, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, among other states, have introduced strict immigration bills that -- by their introduction alone -- have been met with a measure of success.
If print media plays a part in shaping public opinion, isn't it fair to ask whether the normalization of these extremist groups in the pages of America's daily papers has advantaged the ability of anti-immigrant measures to reach fruition?
For details on the methodology and other information in the Media Matters report, click here.
Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, was introduced in January 2010. Since then, in their coverage of immigration issues America's top five newspapers and the Associated Press and Reuters newswires have cited anti-immigrant organizations with ties to white supremacists and racists -- including one that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- over 250 times.
The Congressional Budget Office's annual long-term budget report shows that without any changes in the law, government debt will peak this year, then slowly decline for two decades. Despite this finding, many media outlets are emphasizing a "dire" outlook, while downplaying or ignoring CBO's finding that there is a path to a stable budget that includes maintaining the social safety net.
Mitt Romney's remarks at Solyndra were full of falsehoods that went unchecked by many major media outlets. The media also largely failed to point out that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney invested in several companies that subsequently went bankrupt or defaulted on state loans.
If ever a more shining example of an inherent problem plaguing the media today exists, this is it. Just three weeks ago, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, two well-respected, centrist political commentators with records of accomplishment going back decades, charged in a Washington Post op-ed that the Republican Party is to blame for our "dysfunctional" Congress -- just days before the release of their book detailing this thesis, It's Even Worse Than It Looks.
But "the most quoted men in Washington" can't even get a booking on the opinion-setting Sunday morning talk shows, as Washingtonpost.com blogger Greg Sargent explained. Media Matters' own research reveals that while journalists writing for the top five national U.S. newspapers have frequently quoted Mann or Ornstein in news articles in the past, the duo is entirely absent from these pages since they publicized their latest observation about the state of Congress.
Such a thesis would seem "likely to generate widespread discussion," opined Steve Benen on Maddowblog recently. "Where's the debate?" he asked. That's a great question, and its examination reveals a structural problem with the way that journalists typically report the news.
Thomas E. Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, are well-respected centrist congressional experts who are often cited by the media. But their recent conclusion that Republicans are responsible for political dysfunction -- laid out in an April 29 Washington Post op-ed and their recently released book -- has been largely ignored, with the top five national newspapers writing a total of zero news articles on their thesis.
Ahead of today's release of the annual Social Security trustees' report, Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review reviewed the failures of the mainstream media in its coverage of Social Security. As Lieberman wrote, "[M]uch of the press has reported only one side of this story using 'facts' that are misleading or flat-out wrong while ignoring others."
A great example of the media's unwillingness to accurately report on Social Security came when Texas Gov. Rick Perry described the program as a "Ponzi scheme." Most coverage of the incident focused either on its political fallout or presented the issue in a "he said-she said" style -- ignoring the false nature of the "Ponzi" attack.
Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme. People who call it a Ponzi scheme are not "wrong but partially right," they're not "called wrong by critics" -- they're just wrong.
A Ponzi scheme is a criminal endeavor that involves opaque financial dealings that promise investment returns when none or next to none actually exist. Social Security's finances are crystal clear, and the interest generated by its trust fund is quite real.
A Ponzi scheme eventually collapses. According to last year's report, Social Security can continue as it is, paying full benefits for nearly 25 years, and 77 percent of promised benefits thereafter.
During coverage of Perry's claims, the Los Angeles Times wrote that "[s]upporters of Social Security argue that the program is a general benefit," while "[o]pponents, like Perry, see the program as a robbing of one generation to pay for the older one, a type of cheat akin to a Ponzi scheme." At no point did the article acknowledge that the "Ponzi scheme" attack was incorrect.
Meanwhile, a Politico story focused entirely on reactions to Perry's comments from Republican officials and completely ignored whether or not his comments had any basis in reality. And a Christian Science Monitor article reported that Perry "says he is not backing down from what he said, but the point is to get people's attention and push for ways to reform Social Security so it will endure long enough to help today's youngsters."
A Media Matters analysis of print and television coverage of rising gasoline prices between January 1 and February 29 finds that news outlets often provided a shallow and shortsighted treatment of the issue. For instance, several outlets largely overlooked fuel economy standards -- a key policy solution that mitigates U.S. vulnerability to price spikes -- while promoting increased U.S. drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline, which would likely move gas prices by only a few cents, if at all. In addition, cable news outlets primarily hosted political figures rather than energy experts or economists to comment on gas prices. Fox News, which covered gas prices far more frequently than any other outlet, regularly blamed President Obama for the recent price increase, a claim in line with Republican strategy but not with the facts.
On Friday the President of low-lying Pacific island nation Kiribati (pronounced KEER-ih-bhass) told The Associated Press about a plan to buy land from Fiji as an "insurance policy" against the effects of climate change. The land purchase would be large enough for the whole population of Kiribati to move should their country become uninhabitable. Not a single major newspaper or television news outlet has covered the story.
The over 100,000 I-Kiribati (Kiribati residents) face rising sea levels, reduced access to safe water, and changing weather patterns in part due to climate change. The village of Tebunginako, which is now all but abandoned, is a powerful symbol of this threat:
Yet none of the major print newspapers (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Los Angeles Times), the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), or the cable networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) have covered the Kiribati's plight since Friday, according to a search of Nexis and Snapstream transcripts. (The Post and USA Today ran the AP report on their websites, but not in print.)