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  • Majority of top U.S. newspapers fail to mention landmark climate change report on their homepages

    After new U.N. IPCC climate report comes out, only 22 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers' homepages made note of it

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A United Nations scientific panel released a major new climate change report on the night of October 7, warning of dire consequences if world governments don’t take unprecedented and dramatic steps in the next decade to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The next morning, the majority of top U.S. newspapers failed to mention the report on their homepages.

    IPCC report warns that fast, sweeping action is necessary to fight climate change

    At 9 p.m. EDT on October 7, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its long-awaited special report about what will happen if the average global temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and what would be required to prevent such a rise. The average temperature has already risen 1 degree C worldwide, and we will see dramatic and deadly impacts if it rises 2 degrees or more, which is now considered extremely likely. The IPCC report was requested by world leaders as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The report emphasizes the need for unprecedented action in the coming years to prevent the worst effects of climate change, and warns of the dire impacts if humanity fails to take that action.

    The majority of top U.S. newspapers neglected to cover the IPCC report on their homepages

    Between 9 a.m. and noon EDT on October 8, Media Matters analyzed the homepages of the top 50 U.S. newspapers as ranked by average Sunday circulation. Twenty-eight of the papers did not mention the report on their homepages at all:

    Of the above newspapers, 10 serve cities that are listed among the "25 U.S. Cities Most Affected by Climate Change" in a 2015 weather.com report: Baltimore, Buffalo, Columbus, Denver, Louisville, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, and St. Paul.

    Other major newspapers in cities heavily affected by climate change also failed to highlight the IPCC report. The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada, did not note the report on its homepage. Las Vegas is ranked third in the weather.com list. The Miami Herald also did not mention the IPCC report on its homepage, though it did link to an article about how the risk of sea-level rise threatens real estate prices. Miami will be particularly affected by sea-level rise; a study published last year in the journal Nature concluded that rising seas as a result of climate change could cause more than 2.5 million Miami residents to flee the city.

    Only 22 of the top 50 U.S. newspapers mentioned the IPCC report on their homepages

    These are the papers that linked from their homepages to articles about the IPCC report:

    A few of the newspapers featured the IPCC report prominently on their homepages, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but most of homepage mentions of the report were just headlines. Here's how the Star Tribune featured the report: 

    Methodology: Media Matters searched for the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” “IPCC,” “report,” and “scientist” on the homepages of the top 50 highest-circulation U.S. newspapers between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST on October 8. The list of newspapers was taken from the recent Pew Research Center report State of the News Media.

  • These are the national anti-LGBTQ groups fighting California's conversion therapy fraud bill 

    Hate group Alliance Defending Freedom has publicly spoken out against a California bill that would classify the dangerous and harmful practice of conversion therapy as fraud

    ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE

    Major anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom has joined an effort that includes several other major national hate groups to try to stop a bill in California that would classify conversion therapy as fraud. The term “conversion therapy” covers a range of discredited practices that attempt to change sexual orientation or gender identity and that have severe mental and medical health consequences. The organizations fighting the California bill -- which include hate groups the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, the American College of Pediatricians, and the Pacific Justice Institute, as well as two pro-conversion-therapy groups -- have a demonstrated history of supporting the dangerous practice.

  • California newspaper editorials connect the dots between climate change and wildfires

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    When hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. earlier this year, conservatives including Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and Fox News personalities argued that it wasn’t the right time to talk about climate change. But a number of local leaders and journalists in the storm-hit states of Texas and Florida disagreed. They called for attention to the fact that climate change is making disasters worse, even as they worked to address and report on the immediate needs of their affected communities.

    Now many political leaders and newspapers in California are following the lead of those in Texas and Florida -- demanding that we recognize the threat of climate change and how it’s exacerbating weather events like the wildfires that have been blazing through parts of Northern California for the last week and a half, the most deadly and destructive fires in the state’s history.

    Many scientists have pointed to climate change as a significant factor that’s intensifying fires like those in California. Columbia University bioclimatologist Park Williams, who co-authored a study last year that found climate change was markedly worsening wildfires in the American West, talked to McClatchy about the California fires last week: “The fingerprint is definitely there,” Williams said. “The connection between temperatures and fire is one we see again and again in the correlation analyses we do.”

    California Gov. Jerry Brown emphasized the connection last week: “With a warming climate, dry weather and reducing moisture, these kinds of catastrophes have happened and will continue to happen,” he said.

    And five of California’s biggest papers have published editorials clearly connecting the dots between this year’s out-of-control wildfire season and climate change.

    The Los Angeles Times, the largest newspaper in California, published an editorial on October 12 explaining how the fires fit into a broader pattern of weather disasters that scientists have been telling us to expect as the world warms:

    When this is over, it may well be the state’s worst fire catastrophe in recorded history by any measure.

    This is not just bad luck. Coming on the heels of other large-scale natural disasters — Houston inundated by a slow-moving tropical storm, swaths of Florida and the Caribbean ripped to shreds by a monster hurricane, much of Puerto Rico leveled by an equally powerful hurricane, a handful of Western states swept by massive fires that burned up millions of acres — one can’t help but see a disturbing pattern emerge. Those superstorms that scientists warned would result from climate change? They are here. The day of reckoning isn’t in the future. It is now.

    The Sacramento Bee made similar points in a strong October 10 editorial and put the heat on President Trump for ignoring climate change:

    Puerto Rico is in ruins. Thousands are displaced in Houston. The Gulf Coast is bracing for a fresh round of hurricanes.

    Now, epic wildfires are incinerating California.

    [...]

    Climate change is doing what scientists predicted — amplifying storms and lengthening wildfire seasons. … If it wasn’t clear last year — or the year before, or the year before that — it is obvious now that a new normal is at hand.

    Given that, it’s ironic, if not delusional, that the Trump administration would pick this, of all weeks, to move to repeal Obama-era limits on greenhouse gases, which drive global warming.

    The San Francisco Chronicle, The Mercury News (San Jose), and The San Diego Union-Tribune all published editorials arguing that governments need to be better prepared to fight wildfires, in part because climate change is making fires more of a danger.

    Of the six largest-circulation California newspapers that publish editorials, only The Orange County Register -- whose editorial board has a record of climate denial -- failed to make mention of climate change in its editorial about the ongoing fires.

    Editorial boards beyond California are picking up the thread as well. The Miami Herald, a major paper in a state recently hit by Hurricane Irma, made note of wildfires in an editorial last week that criticized President Trump’s reversal of the Clean Power Plan, a key Obama-era policy to fight climate change: “Ironically, the repeal is being announced at a time when the impact of climate change is too powerful to deny — in hurricanes of unprecedented frequency and power, in increasing droughts, in expanded wildfires.” The Washington Post and The New York Times ran editorials last week making similar points.

    Papers in disaster-afflicted areas are right to explain the connections between climate change and extreme weather. They have a responsibility not just to report on-the-ground happenings, but to put critical events in context -- especially in their editorials.

    Newspapers and networks with national audiences should do the same, following the lead of The Washington Post and The New York Times. The U.S. has suffered through a stunning string of disasters in recent months, exactly the kinds of extreme weather events that scientists have said we'll see more of as the climate continues to heat up. Media outlets have a duty to explain that climate change is driving some of the damage and will drive far more in the future if we don't curb our greenhouse gas emissions and better prepare our communities for disasters.

    This job is all the more important given that we have a president who not only denies basic climate science, but fails to take many disasters seriously. Trump has shown callous disregard for hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico, and he has almost entirely ignored the California wildfires. He hadn't even tweeted about the fires until today, 10 days after they started. Major media outlets need to step in and help fill that void.

    -----

    This post was updated to reflect the fact that President Trump tweeted about the wildfires on October 18.

  • Publications Broke With Tradition To Endorse Clinton Because Trump Is “Unfit” And “Dangerous”

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    As the list of publications breaking with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump continues to grow, editors at those publications tell Media Matters they opted to endorse Clinton because Trump is “unfit,” “reckless,” “dangerous,” “racist,” and “misogynistic.”

    Weeks after a string of newspapers, including the The Arizona Republic, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Dallas Morning News, made historic endorsements of Clinton -- marking the first time some ever went with a Democrat -- several more publications released surprising recommendations urging readers to support Clinton.

    Those include The San Diego Union-Tribune, which endorsed Clinton on October 1 -- the first time in its 148-year history it has supported a Democrat -- while The Columbus Dispatch and Foreign Policy magazine joined the effort this past weekend. 

    “It’s unusual in that it’s historic,” said Alan D. Miller, editor of The Columbus Dispatch, which posted its endorsement of Clinton on Sunday. “We haven’t endorsed a Democrat since Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but we have been very critical of Trump all along. We wrote an editorial in December saying he is unfit to be president and nothing has changed since then.”

    Miller said the seven-member editorial board was nearly unanimous on the idea and wanted to avoid simply offering no endorsement or a third party option.

    “Third party options are tempting,” he said. “But in reality the third party candidates don’t have a chance of winning. It would not have been enough to just say, ‘Don’t vote for Trump.’ For those who are going to pick somebody there really is only one option in our view and that’s how we arrived at Hillary.”

    He added that Clinton is “a seasoned veteran leader who has a wealth of experience starting with having been first lady," and he noted that she has been "heavily involved in politics and leadership from the time Bill Clinton was governor, to the time she became a senator and secretary of state.”

    Miller said the editorial was already done when audio leaked last Friday of Trump boasting about committing sexual assault: “We didn’t need to add anything from that.”

    At Foreign Policy, endorsing in a U.S. presidential race was a first. And the magazine used the historic moment to back Clinton.

    “We think this is an extraordinary election,” said David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy’s CEO and editor. “We cover global risks and risks facing the United States and in the judgement of the editors we are facing special risks. We felt that it warranted special action.

    “One is possibly the most, certainly one of the most experienced candidates to run for president on national security issues in the modern world, and the other is undoubtedly the least experienced and [he's] reckless,” Rothkopf said about the candidates. “We discussed the available options and this was the best way forward. There is a consensus of both points, a consensus that Trump is racist, misogynistic, reckless and wholly unsuited for the office of the presidency. We felt that she was highly qualified, highly experienced, highly intelligent and had a very good record as a manager at the State Department.”

    He also said the decision was made prior to Friday’s news: “Donald Trump has demonstrated repeatedly before and after Friday that he’s kind of a repellent person.”

    The Union-Tribune, meanwhile, offered its first-ever Democratic presidential endorsement dating back to the launch of the then-San Diego Union in 1868, according to Matt Hall, editorial and opinion director.

    “When it came time for the general [election], I personally felt we had to take a position,” Hall told Media Matters. “Partly because Trump is so dangerous and partly because it is a responsibility of an editorial board to make tough decisions. Voting is the most important thing we do as Americans. We need to tell you who we think you should choose from who is on the ballot.”

    The paper included a video explaining why it sought to oppose Trump.

    Hall said the paper’s opposition to Trump dates back months, noting that in June the paper told California primary voters to write in Ronald Reagan. 

  • Newspaper Editorial Boards Overwhelmingly Urge Senate To "Do Your Job" And Vote On Obama's SCOTUS Nominee

    ››› ››› KATE SARNA

    Newspaper editorial boards are overwhelmingly urging GOP Senate leadership to hold hearings and vote on President Obama's Supreme Court nomination to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. A vast number of the boards have called GOP pledges to block a nomination "outrageous," "irresponsible," obstructionism rooted in "partisan self-interest" which "deeply damages the operation of the Judiciary Branch" and "represents an act of disrespect to Justice Scalia."

  • U-T San Diego Ignores Growing Evidence Of Prevailing Wage Benefits

    ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    A U-T San Diego editorial attacked a recent proposal to expand the city's prevailing wage law to all city projects that are "public works," claiming it would increase the cost of projects and thereby increase the cost to taxpayers. However, the editorial failed to note that a growing body of research has found that prevailing wage laws do not significantly increase government contract costs and provide other social benefits to workers and their families.

  • U-T San Diego's Alleged Pro-GOP Campaign Ad Pricing Scheme Sparks State Review

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    U-T San Diego, a California daily newspaper which has been criticized for promoting the pro-business and hard-right political activities of new owner Douglas Manchester, is under review by state election regulators for allegedly giving discounted political ad rates to conservative campaigns and Republican candidates it favored.

    Manchester, a local developer with a history of conservative political activism, purchased the paper, then named the San Diego Union-Tribune, in late 2011. Since then, he has come under fire from local media observers and U-T employees for using the paper to benefit his corporate and ideological interests.

    The state inquiry comes amid reports that another pair of corporate titans who are major funders of the conservative movement, Charles and David Koch, are among those interested in buying Tribune Company, owner of the nearby Los Angeles Times and other daily newspapers.

    The U-T San Diego's alleged practice has sparked a review by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, an independent body which oversees campaign violations and can issue fines.

    The issue was sparked by a joint review of 2012 campaign ads in the U-T San Diego by inewsource, a non-profit San Diego State University journalism project, and KPBS, the local public radio station.

    The outlets explain:

    inewsource and KPBS audited ads in the U-T every day between Labor Day and Election Day 2012 and compared the list with campaign finance records. The results show varied payments for ads, indicating the U-T may have offered bargains to [a group opposing the campaign of Democratic Mayor Bob Filner]  and to other candidates and issues the newspaper endorsed.

    According to their report, U-T San Diego may have offered discounted ad rates to local, state, and federal Republican and conservative campaigns that the paper endorsed. Unless such discounts were reported as in-kind contributions to the recipients, they could violate election laws, experts told inewsource and KPBS.  

  • U-T San Diego Profile Of Anti-Immigrant Coalition Hides Group's Nativist, Minutemen Connections

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    The U-T San Diego profiled a new anti-immigrant coalition in the San Diego region working to lobby against immigration reform but failed to note the coalition's ties to the nativist group, the Center for Immigration Studies, and to a former Minutemen organization.

    In its profile of the San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition, the U-T San Diego quoted a member of the coalition, Peter Nunez, who the U-T San Diego identified only as "a member of the coalition and a former U.S. attorney in San Diego." It also discussed the founding of the group by two San Diego residents, Jeff Schwilk and Rob Luton:

    A new coalition in San Diego County is lobbying members of Congress to support a plan that calls for enhanced border enforcement, decreased legal immigration and the end of automatic citizenship for those born in the United States.

    [...]

    The coalition was formed by San Diego residents Jeff Schwilk and Rob Luton.

    "Amnesty is a bad idea in general, but certainly it's a bad idea if you are not first going to ensure border enforcement and workplace enforcement," said Peter Nunez, a member of the coalition and a former U.S. attorney in San Diego. "If you don't secure the border and have a viable workplace enforcement program, then you will just be dealing with the same issue over and over and over again."

    However, the newspaper did not note that many of the people highlighted in its story have a connection to nativist and former Minutemen groups. Nunez is the board chairman for the anti-immigrant nativist group, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). CIS is part of the John Tanton network of anti-immigrant nativist groups, which include the hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA. CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian is known for making derogatory remarks about Muslims and the American-born children of immigrants.  

    The coalition's founder Jeff Schwilk was "the hot-tempered leader of the San Diego Minutemen (SDMM), a nativist extremist organization with a reputation for violent confrontations and crude insults," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2009, Schwilk was ordered to pay $135,000 to a Korean-American civil rights activist who filed a defamation lawsuit after the SDMM circulated photos of her and referred to her in derogatory and racist terms. 

  • The Fall Of The San Diego Union-Tribune

    How A Major GOP Donor Turned A Respected Paper Into A Corporate Shill

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    ManchesterIt's been just about a year since developer and financier Douglas Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune, the largest newspaper in the city. For some staffers and media observers, it's been the worst year in the paper's eight-decade history.

    Manchester, a major Republican Party contributor, and U-T CEO John Lynch have overhauled the once-respected daily into what many consider a front for Manchester's "cheerleading" for business interests and right-wing politics.

    "People are so embarrassed by the [newspaper] that they are dropping their subscriptions," says Don Bauder, who spent 30 years at the Union-Tribune from 1973 to 2003, which included stints as financial editor and columnist. "Around town it is an embarrassment."

    A group headed by Manchester purchased the Union-Tribune in November 2011, just a few years after the paper won two Pulitzer prizes. He took over operations in January 2012 and immediately put his mark on the paper, changing the name to U-T San Diego to promote all of its news outlets beyond print, hiring Lynch, a longtime friend and local radio station owner, as his CEO, and placing a front-page editorial on the print edition that all but vowed to work for big business.

    Such changes have come at a cost. David Carr of The New York Times, among the most respected media columnists in the country, wrote in June that the Union-Tribune "often seems like a brochure for [Manchester's] various interests." He added that any pretense of protecting news coverage from the new ownership's editorial views "was obliterated from the start."

    The paper's decline has continued apace since Carr published his piece. In the run up to November's elections, the paper took its support for a Republican mayoral candidate to unusual lengths with front page editorials, while also disparaging President Obama via opinion pieces that featured vitriol usually confined to Internet fever swamps.

    From its outlandish front page editorializing for a new football stadium and waterfront development (which would indirectly benefit Manchester's bank account) to its top executive's threatening email to a public official, the newspaper is considered by many staff and local media experts to have fallen into an ethical morass.

    And that worry has grown worse in the past few months as Manchester bought the North County Times, a smaller daily in nearby Escondido, CA, which was considered a necessary rival to the Union-Tribune.

    "The only way the paper will survive is if people trust it to give the news of their community," said Dean Nelson, director of journalism at nearby Point Loma Nazarene University, who also writes for The New York Times and The Boston Globe. "If people get the sense it is just whoring for the leadership's business enterprises, they are done.

  • San Diego Union-Tribune Endorses Fracking, Overlooks Impact On California's Wine Industry

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    An editorial in the November 15 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune advocated for an "oil-shale revolution" by expanding fracking in California, completely ignoring the harmful economic and environmental impacts fracking could have on agriculture and the renowned, multi-billion dollar wine industry in California.

    The Union-Tribune gave a whole-hearted endorsement of fracking, specifically in the Monterey Formation region of central California, saying in its editorial:

    On Dec. 12, the federal Bureau of Land Management is set to auction off drilling rights to nearly 18,000 acres in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties. We hope Gov. Jerry Brown and state regulators talk a calm look at fracking and its long history. Environmentalists' griping about fracking's allegedly huge downside only ramped up when new methods proved transformative for oil and gas exploration.

    [...]

    Even if California's media haven't caught on to the state's potential for a Bakken-style economic boom, the oil industry has. By far the BLM's biggest 2011 lease was the $180,000 paid for a 200-acre parcel by Vintage Production California, a Bakersfield-based subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, the third-largest U.S. oil and gas producer. On Oxy's website, it estimates the shale reserves on California land it already controls to have over 20 billion barrels of potential oil - a claim that the company says is made in accordance with the Securities and Exchange Commission's rule that only "economically producible" reserves can be cited in SEC filings.

    The Union-Tribune left out some important voices in the discussion on fracking, most notably farmers and winery owners. Simon Salinas, a member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, has expressed fear that it could taint the food and water supply needed to grow crops or produce wine -- which in California is a $19.9 billion a year industry.