Since Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) announced his presidential campaign, the media has largely ignored the controversy over his attempt to gut Wisconsin's open records laws while continuing to obsess over Hillary Clinton's emails.
Walker, working with other Republicans in Wisconsin, inserted a measure in the proposed state budget that would, as the Associated Press reported, "shield nearly everything created by state and local government officials from Wisconsin's open records law, including drafts of legislation and staff communications." The provision was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats in the state, with one state senator, Robert Cowles (R - Green Bay), describing it as an "assault on democracy."
As the controversy grew, it became clear Walker's office was involved in drafting the provision. The Wisconsin State Journal noted the controversy began to heat up "barely a week before Walker was scheduled to announce a bid for the 2016 presidential nomination." The provision was then pulled.
Yet, national media largely ignored the story after months of coverage of Hillary Clinton's emails and the issue of transparency.
Around the time of Walker's July 13 presidential announcement, the open records controversy was barely mentioned. A USA Today op-ed from a Wisconsin Democrat noted it, as did the Washington Post, along with a short mention in a CNN report.
Fox's Sean Hannity interviewed Walker on the evening of his announcement, asking what he thought about "somebody that erases not only their e-mails and then their server" but never brought up Walker's open records problem or the bipartisan backlash.
At the same time, the media continued to bring up the Clinton email story - the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Fox News during Special Report, Hannity, and The Kelly File, and MSNBC on Hardball. Often the Clinton emails were still being referenced despite the absence of any relevant news. The State Department disclosure of some of the emails produced anodyne highlights like inter-office discussions about the use of a fax machine and iced tea.
As they reported on these conversations, Walker's gambit barely registered with the national press despite the furor in Wisconsin.
The media has previously exhibited this double standard on covering transparency issues within the context of covering the 2016 presidential campaign. When disclosing his emails from his time as governor of Florida, Jeb Bush omitted emails he determined were not relevant to the public record - including emails related to "politics, fundraising and personal matters while he was governor."
Even when it became known that Bush had discussed security and troop deployments using his private email, the press barely noticed, still focusing on the Clinton story.
USA Today's editorial board published a misleading editorial comparing the economic crisis currently crippling Greece with the economic problems facing the United States, fear mongering that a similar crisis could happen "in as little as a decade." But economists have repeatedly dismissed the comparison, explaining that the U.S. economy is dissimilar from Greece and therefore unlikely to face a similar debt crisis.
On July 6, the editorial board published a piece claiming that the United States could find itself in a Greece-like economic and financial crisis as a result of America's debt and entitlements. According to the editorial board, "Greece is just further along" in its debt crisis however, Americans can expect a major shock "in as little as a decade."
Both countries have amassed large debts. Both are run by politicians eager to tell voters what they want to hear about national finances, not what they need to hear. Both have aging populations. Both are familiar with irresponsible banks lending to irresponsible borrowers. And both have been plunging headlong towards debt crises.
Greece is just further along.
Yet efforts to even modestly curtail health benefits, or any other "entitlement" programs for that matter, meet thunderous opposition from politicians, labor unions, senior citizen groups and others. Often, the objections are couched in language of people having "earned" their benefits after a lifetime of work.
In fact, they've earned a portion of their benefits. An average couple that retired in 2010, for instance, will receive $387,000 in Medicare benefits after having paid $122,000 in Medicare taxes while working. Social Security is in somewhat better shape but it, too, will soon have to start drawing down its reserves, adding more red ink to the budget.
Unless benefit programs are reined in, America is heading for its own debt crisis. It won't be complicated by whether it should drop out of a currency union. And it might be delayed by a vibrant and innovative private sector. But it could arrive in as little as a decade. And then everything will seem Greek to us.
USA Today's doom and gloom predictions are indistinguishable from the cartoonish fearmongering that has been promoted by Fox News since 2010.
Washington Post contributor and international political economist Daniel Drezner blasted media outlets for allowing the "re-emergence of a Greece-related meme that should have died of shame and embarrassment about four years ago." According to Drezner, after years of the media predicting a Greek-like disaster "exactly none of these things have come to pass."
And on the July 5 edition of ABC's This Week, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman downplayed the impact of the Greek debt crisis for other developed economies, explaining that Greece's GDP is roughly equal to that of Miami, Florida. Krugman also argued in his New York Times column that U.S.-Greece comparisons are unreliable, since they project debt in future decades and assume fiscal policies remain static.
Um, that's comparing a (highly uncertain) projection of debt 20 years from now -- a projection that's based on the assumption of unchanged policy -- with actual debt now. Actual US federal debt is only about half that high now. And it's worth pointing out that Greek debt is projected to rise to 149 percent of GDP over the next few years -- and that's with the austerity measures agreed with the IMF.
Basically, the United States can expect economic recovery to bring the deficit down substantially; Greece, which has a larger structural deficit and also faces a grinding adjustment to overvaluation with the eurozone, can't.
Yes, the United States needs fiscal adjustment -- Auerbach and Gale say that we have a long-run fiscal imbalance of 6-plus percent of GDP, although much of that could be closed by reining in health costs. But we really don't look much like Greece.
Three months after a Columbia University investigation found major journalistic errors in a Rolling Stone report on campus sexual assault at the University of Virginia, major news outlets say they have not adjusted their approach to covering similar stories. But rape survivor advocates say they have seen less coverage of the issue since the failures of the Rolling Stone report came to light, and, in some cases, an increased hesitancy in trusting survivors' accounts.
The November 2014 Rolling Stone article "A Rape on Campus" prominently featured the story of "Jackie," a pseudonymous University of Virginia student who told the outlet she was gang-raped in 2012 at a fraternity party.
After initially receiving praise, the article came under fire for an apparent failure to seek comment from the alleged suspects. Other factual questions arose, prompting Rolling Stone to commission an investigation with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and its dean, Steve Coll.
That investigation, released in early April, found the Rolling Stone story was a "journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine's editors to reconsider publishing Jackie's narrative so prominently, if at all."
Though the report outlined specific failures in the Rolling Stone editorial process (while declining to adjudicate exactly what happened to "Jackie"), it also pointed to broader problems in how all outlets cover sexual assault, and offered some suggestions on "how journalists might begin to define best practices when reporting about rape cases on campus or elsewhere." It recommended, for example, that journalists spend time further deliberating how best to balance sensitivity to victims with the demands of verification, and how best to corroborate survivor accounts.
In interviews with Media Matters, editors from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and other outlets said they have not adjusted their approach to covering the stories of rape survivors in light of the Rolling Stone mess and the resulting Columbia report.
Several editors said that the Rolling Stone saga would not cause them to believe survivors less or hesitate to publicize their stories.
"I don't think that story holds any larger lessons about rape coverage, or whether one should believe alleged assault victims," New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet told Media Matters via email. "It was a poorly-done story ... It doesn't make me any more or less likely to believe a source. We always verify, get the other side, and report the heck out of a story, no matter the subject."
Other editors who spoke with Media Matters maintain their coverage will be unaffected.
"It hasn't, or won't change how we view these stories," said David Callaway, editor of USA Today. "I always thought the idea that news organizations would cut back on their coverage because of one poor example seemed a bit far-fetched. We still get people coming to us with stories or requests for coverage many times a day, and the ones we choose to go after we only pursue if we can verify. We have detailed guidelines on sourcing and fairness in coverage and we have no plans to change those in the wake of the Rolling Stone debacle."
Several months into the 2016 presidential campaign, the media is frequently failing to fact-check statements by presidential candidates denying the science of climate change. Seven major newspapers and wire services surveyed by Media Matters have thus far failed to indicate that candidates' statements conflict with the scientific consensus in approximately 43 percent of their coverage, while the major broadcast and cable news outlets other than MSNBC have failed to do so 75 percent of the time.
Many major media outlets reported that a new Environmental Protection Agency study found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing (aka "fracking") has had "widespread" impacts on Americans' drinking water, but did not mention the EPA's explanation for why the study doesn't necessarily indicate "a rarity of effects on drinking water resources." The EPA study identified several "limiting factors," including insufficient data, the lack of long-term studies, and inaccessible information, which it said "preclude a determination of the frequency of [drinking water] impacts with any certainty."
From the May 21 edition of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes:
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Recent news reports on Republican presidential candidates' current support for pre-viability bans on abortion after 20 weeks have failed to mention that such bans are clearly unconstitutional, and have been repeatedly struck down as such by the courts.
It's no secret that the likely candidates for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination are extremely anti-choice. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was recently in the news for his sponsorship of "personhood" bills that would legally define life at conception, rendering abortion and some forms of birth control the criminal equivalent of murder -- perhaps even without exceptions for rape or incest. With less attention, Paul's potential primary opponents have also staked out far-right positions on American women's access to abortion, and recent reporting indicates their consensus position is coalescing around pre-viability 20-week abortion bans. In addition to Paul, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are all reportedly on board with these bans, despite the fact they flout decades of Supreme Court precedent protecting the constitutional right to abortion.
In reporting on these candidates' current lockstep for bans on abortion, however, mainstream media outlets are neglecting to mention that these 20-week measures are blatantly unconstitutional -- despite the fact that some of these same candidates repeatedly emphasize their fidelity to the "rule of law" and the U.S. Constitution.
In a recent article about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who has yet to officially announce his candidacy, The New York Times noted that Walker's newfound support for a 20-week abortion ban was a "shift in emphasis and tone," but never discussed the constitutional flaw in such bans. USA Today, The Boston Globe, and The Los Angeles Times omitted the same fact in their political coverage of Walker's position on reproductive rights, with the LA Times choosing to describe a 20-week ban in terms of a "sharper-edged tone" rather than the unconstitutional measure it is.
The trend culminated in an April 17 Politico article that called 20-week abortion bans the "new litmus test" for all Republican candidates. While Politico detailed how anti-choice groups are lobbying Republicans to "make 20-week abortion ban[s] a centerpiece of their campaigns," the article never once noted that those bans are unconstitutional.
Most of the largest newspapers in the Northeast corridor did not publish a single piece covering this winter's major snowstorms in the context of global warming, despite strong scientific evidence that climate change creates the conditions for heavier snowstorms. The major broadcast networks and cable news channels also provided scant mention of climate change in their discussions of the snowstorms, with the notable exception of MSNBC, which provided extensive coverage of the topic. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Fox News, the Boston Herald and the Providence Journal featured content that used the snowstorms to deny climate science.
Bjorn Lomborg has argued for more coal use abroad and fewer electric cars here in the U.S., both times contorting the facts to cast his position as a way to keep people from dying. In each instance, Lomborg cloaks his anti-environmental positions in supposed concern for public health, rather than addressing the canary in the coal mine: The fact that coal emissions contribute to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States.
In a February 19 USA Today column, Lomborg, the President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a long-time electric car critic, asserted that we should "stop our green worship of the electric car," in part because it "surprisingly kills almost twice the number of people compared with regular gasoline cars." Lomborg was referring to a recent University of Minnesota study, which found that the pollution associated with electric vehicles powered by coal or "grid average" electricity result in more annual deaths than the pollution associated with vehicles run on conventional gasoline. Based on these findings, Lomborg concluded that "[i]nstead of focusing on electric cars, we should focus on making coal-fired power cleaner."
Of course, that wasn't the conclusion of the study Lomborg was citing. The University of Minnesota researchers instead emphasized that "electric vehicles (EVs) powered by electricity from natural gas or wind, water, or solar power are best for improving air quality, whereas vehicles powered by corn ethanol and EVs powered by coal are the worst." In other words, the solution is moving away from coal as quickly as possible, not scrapping electric cars.
Media are recycling old news that The Clinton Foundation accepts foreign donations when neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton hold political office to fearmonger over "ethical concerns" surrounding the donations, ignoring the fact that it is not unusual for foundations to receive foreign donations and that Clinton's record as Secretary of State makes clear that she was not politically influenced by previous donations to the Foundation.
A Media Matters review of several major newspapers found that their coverage of congressional efforts to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline has been missing an essential component of the story: the hundreds of millions of dollars that the fossil fuel industry spent in the midterm elections to elect members of Congress who support Keystone XL and other aspects of the oil industry's agenda. Of the newspapers reviewed, only The New York Times tied congressional support for Keystone XL back to the fossil fuel industry's campaign contributions.
The Washington Post's Fact Checker debunked the claim that net neutrality protections could cost American consumers $15 billion in additional taxes and fees -- a favorite conservative argument against net neutrality and one parroted by multiple media outlets -- concluding the estimate contains "significant factual error[s] and/or obvious contradictions."
USA Today amplified a misleading op-ed claiming that proposed net neutrality regulations could cost consumers $15 billion in new user fees and taxes, a number that has been called into question by advocacy groups for faulty assumptions.
On December 12, USA Today ran an op-ed by Progressive Policy Institute's Hal Singer and Brookings Institute's Robert Litan promoting their conclusion that a vote by the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act could cost consumers "a whopping $15 billion in new user fees to consumer bills." The authors claimed that "[o]nce Internet access service is labeled a 'telecommunications service' under Title II, consumer broadband services could become subject to a whole host of new taxes and fees."
Singer and Litan admitted that "the Internet Tax Freedom Act pending in Congress might limit the impact of some of these taxes and fees" and that the FCC could limit service fees to consumers, but argued that such moves are unlikely and would not limit the impact of all fees.
The paper published the authors' claims despite the fact that their calculations have been criticized for relying on faulty assumptions. The nonpartisan open Internet advocacy group Free Press estimated that FCC limits and the Internet Freedom Act would reduce possible fees associated with net neutrality reclassification by nearly 75 percent, to $4 billion. The group called the notion that Internet reclassification would amount to more than $15 billion in new local, state, and federal taxes an unlikely "worst-case scenario" that fails to account for how net neutrality works in practice, as it ignores "the difference between services that cross state lines and those that exist entirely within one state":
Media coverage of an omnibus spending bill that rolled back key financial services regulations ignored the amount of money the financial services industry spent helping elect members of Congress in 2014. In fact, the industry lobbying to eliminate the regulation spent $436 million on federal candidates during the midterm elections.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it will delay its decision about the 2014 levels for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires oil refiners to blend renewable fuels into the nation's gasoline supply. The announcement has drawn criticism from opponents who want the EPA to lessen or eliminate the RFS, and the media are recycling debunked myths about the mandate. Here are the facts.