Author Page | Media Matters for America

Jill Fitzsimmons

Author ››› Jill Fitzsimmons
  • VIDEO: Fox's Fact-Free Bubble, Climate Consensus Edition

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    A new study finds that 97 percent of peer-reviewed papers on climate science agreed that human activity is driving climate change. Fox News has yet to report on these findings, after repeatedly insisting that there is no scientific consensus on the issue.

    The survey, published last week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, analyzed nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed papers published between 1991 and 2011. Of the 4,000 that took a position on the causes of climate change, 97 percent agreed that it is anthropogenic, and less than one percent disputed the scientific consensus. This survey is the most comprehensive of its kind, building on a 2004 review which found that not a single peer-reviewed paper rejected manmade climate change over the previous decade.

    Polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of climate scientists agree that human activity is contributing to rising global temperatures. But that hasn't stopped Fox News from claiming that there is "no consensus" among scientists on the causes of climate change and that the science is "deep in dispute":

  • Nightly News Covered The Royal Family More Than Climate Change In 2012

    72,000 Call On Networks To Increase Climate Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    More than 72,000 Americans are calling on ABC, CBS and NBC to reassess their priorities after a Media Matters analysis found that their nightly news programs devoted very little time to climate change in 2012 -- less than they covered the British royal family.

    Even during the warmest year on record in the U.S., the nightly news programs combined devoted only 12 full segments to climate change. By contrast, these programs dedicated over seven times more coverage to the royals in 2012, as this graphic by the Climate Reality Project in collaboration with Media Matters illustrates:

    The disparity was greatest on ABC World News, which dedicated 43 segments to the royal family and only one to climate change. NBC Nightly News wasn't much better, devoting 38 segments to the royals and only 4 to climate change. CBS Evening News covered climate change the most -- in 7 segments -- but still less than its 11 segments on the royal family.

    This ongoing imbalance was illustrated just last week when scientists announced that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is set to surpass 400 parts per million, likely for the first time in human history. ABC World News and NBC Nightly News ignored the story, even as NBC found time to cover Prince Harry's visit to the United States.

    A previous Media Matters report found that the broadcast networks covered Donald Trump more than climate change in 2011.

  • "New Normal" Of California Wildfires Doesn't Make The News

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    As wildfires swept through southern California over the past week, experts warned that the state is in for an especially dangerous wildfire season due to unusually hot and dry conditions. But in their coverage of the fires, several of California's major newspapers have entirely ignored how climate change has increased wildfire risks in the region.

    California's wildfire season kicked off early this year, with record temperatures, heavy winds and ongoing drought conditions fueling fires across the state that have threatened thousands of homes and businesses. California has already experienced 680 wildfires this year -- about 200 more than average for this period -- and the National Interagency Fire Service is predicting "above normal" potential for significant fires in northern and southern California this season. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is preparing for a higher number of significant fires across the West.

    Climate experts warn that rising global temperatures are already leading to more frequent and more severe wildfires and longer fire seasons in the Southwest, calling large fires like those in California "the new normal." But several major print outlets in California have failed to make this connection, even after Governor Jerry Brown noted the link Monday.

    The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and U-T San Diego have not mentioned climate change while reporting on the recent fires. These papers also printed several stories from the Associated Press, none of which mentioned climate change. By contrast, the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times mentioned climate change in 33 percent and 27 percent of coverage, respectively.

  • VIDEO: What The Press Is Missing About Midwest Floods

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    As Midwestern states assess the damage wrought by record flooding in recent weeks, scientists tell Media Matters that the media has missed an important part of the story: the impact of climate change. A Media Matters analysis finds that less than 3 percent of television and print coverage of the flooding mentioned climate change, which has increased the frequency of large rain storms and exacerbated flood risks.

    Seven out of eight scientists interviewed by Media Matters agreed that climate change is pertinent to coverage of recent flooding in the Midwest. Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer told Media Matters it is "not only appropriate, but advisable" for the press to note that rainstorms in the Midwest are increasing in frequency and that climate models "suggest this trend will continue," which will contribute to more flooding. Aquatic ecologist Don Scavia added that this is the "new normal," and that the media is "missing an important piece of information" by ignoring this trend.

    Indeed, climate change has been almost entirely absent from national and local reporting on the floods. Only one of 74 television segments mentioned climate change, on CBS News. ABC, NBC and CNN never mentioned the connection.

    Meanwhile, USA TODAY was the only national print outlet to report on Midwest floods in the context of climate change. USA TODAY also created a video, featured above, explaining the connection as part of a year-long series on the impacts of climate change.  

  • STUDY: Media Ignore Climate Context Of Midwest Floods


    The Midwest has experienced near record flooding this spring, resulting in four deaths, extensive property damage, and disruptions of agriculture and transportation. Evidence suggests that manmade climate change has increased the frequency of heavy downpours, and will continue to increase flooding risks. But in their ample coverage of Midwestern flooding, major media outlets rarely mentioned climate change.

  • STUDY: Media Overlooked Keystone XL Risks Even After Arkansas Spill


    A Media Matters analysis of news coverage of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline since the 2012 election shows that the media continue to largely ignore the risk of an oil spill, while promoting the economic benefits of the project. Meanwhile, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal have dismissed Keystone XL's climate impacts, instead serving as a platform for the pipeline's champions.

  • Fox's Stossel Overplays His Invisible Hand

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    Fox Business host John Stossel contradicted himself within just a few paragraphs over whether the "free market" can remedy pollution.

    In a column, Stossel acknowledged that the "free market ... doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution," but went on tout "capitalism" as the answer to pollution just a few paragraphs later:

    Originally, environmental rules were a good thing. I love the free market, but it doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution. I could sue polluters for violating my property rights, but under our legal system, that's not even close to practical.

    So in the '70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks. Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.


    Throughout the world, most reductions in pollution have been achieved because of capitalism, not government control.

    Fracking for natural gas reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

    Even much-hated coal and oil provide benefits. [emphasis added]

    Stossel was right the first time. Experts from across the political spectrum say that when the "free market" does not account for the external costs that fossil fuel production imposes on society, the government must step in to put a price on pollution. As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman put it:

    Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. [...] So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you'd be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?

    Krugman highlighted a 2011 study by centrist economists which found that coal imposes more costs on society than any other industry and may be "underregulated" as its price does not account for these damages.

  • What CNN Is Missing About High-Speed Rail

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    CNN has repeatedly portrayed stimulus funding for high-speed rail as a "boondoggle" because much of the money has gone to upgrading existing rail lines rather than new bullet trains. But the untold story is that Republican obstructionism has halted progress on new high-speed rail lines, which require a long-term investment of time and money.

    The Situation Room aired a report by Drew Griffin on Tuesday claiming that high-speed rail is "turning into a pipe dream," pointing to a rail improvement project in Washington state that has received $800 million in stimulus funding. The project is on track to achieve its goal of improving schedule reliability, increasing trips and reducing travel times between Seattle and Portland to serve an increasing ridership. But as CNN noted, Washington never intended to use that funding to build a new rail line for high-speed bullet trains. Griffin's report, which follows a series on Anderson Cooper 360 that criticized projects in Vermont and California, led guest anchor Joe Johns to conclude that taxpayers are "not getting much out of their investment" in high-speed rail:

    In fact, the stimulus has supported 150 planning and construction projects across the country, "jumpstart[ing]" a "renaissance" for passenger rail, according to a Brookings Institution report. This progress comes despite Republican efforts to prevent high-speed rail projects from moving forward. Republican governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida rejected stimulus grants for new high-speed rail projects in their states, citing the cost to taxpayers. But when some of that money was diverted to Amtrak upgrades (including the Washington state project highlighted by CNN), some of those same governors sought funding for rail improvement projects. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress blocked President Obama's six-year, $53 billion budget request for high-speed rail, dismissing it as just a "fun thing." CNN overlooked these roadblocks, which have slowed the progress of high-speed rail.

  • Another Misleading Fox News Graphic: Temperature Edition

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    Fox News is suggesting that scientists were "wrong" about global warming by using misleading graphics to obscure the long-term global temperature rise.

    On his Fox News show, Neil Cavuto suggested that the recent cold weather invalidates concerns about global warming, asking weather forecaster and climate misinformer Joe Bastardi, "How did we get this so wrong?" Cavuto aired a graphic which at first glance appears to show that temperatures are dramatically cooler now than they were last March. But the graphic compares apples to oranges: the map on the left shows whether temperatures were above or below average for the month of March, while the map on the right shows absolute minimum temperatures for last Wednesday, March 20.

    If the temperature scale for the map on the right were applied to the map on the left, it would mean that temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the upper Midwest in March 2012.

    A more honest comparison would look at the same day in March 2012, showing a far less stark contrast:

    But even this comparison would be flawed, as daily and regional temperature fluctuations are expected, and do not contradict the observed long-term, global temperature trends.

  • Fox News: Solar Power "Might Be Tanking Our Economy"

    Blog ››› ››› JILL FITZSIMMONS

    Fox News is pointing to one struggling solar company to suggest that the solar industry is "tanking our economy," ignoring rapid growth in the clean energy sector that has helped, not hurt, our economy.

    SoloPower, a California-based solar panel manufacturer, recently announced it will lay off workers in order to cut costs. The company received a federal loan guarantee but has been unable to draw down on it as it has not met the requirements. Fox News seized on SoloPower's difficulties as evidence the solar industry "might be tanking our economy" during a Fox & Friends segment called "Who's Ruining the Economy?" that regularly attacks green energy investments.

    In fact, solar industry jobs grew more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy between 2003 - 2010. While some solar manufacturers have struggled to compete with heavily subsidized Chinese competitors, falling solar panel prices are driving record installations and putting solar energy on track to become cost-competitive with fossil fuels within a decade.

    Source: Wall Street Journal

    Experts note that it is common for an industry to consolidate as it matures, as some companies are out-competed or bought out by larger companies. But Fox News has repeatedly pointed to individual companies in order to smear the entire clean energy industry. This segment was no exception, featuring a graphic purportedly showing the Obama administration's "failed" clean energy investments, most of which have not actually failed.

    While Fox News claims solar power is "tanking our economy," it campaigns for policies that could actually inflict severe harm on the economy such as Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would impose severe spending cuts while possibly raising taxes on the middle class.