Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

How the News Ignored Obama’s Climate Change Plan

Photo by White House. Some rights reserved.

Photo by White House. Some rights reserved.

There’s a lot going on in the news these days, so you’d be forgiven for missing a story here or there. Still, when we told you about President Obama’s big climate change speech last week, we assumed it was headline material. After all, as I said in last week’s post, the speech marked “the first time that a President has set a legislative course of action to deal with climate change” – seems like a newsworthy event to me!

While reactions to Obama’s plan were mixed (and not just along party lines), Politico and Think Progress have both pointed out that major news networks gave very little attention (positive or negative) to the speech and unveiled plan, period. Politico’s Dylan Byers raised the issue last week, and Think Progress ran with it with two infographics, one showing the amount of time spent covering the speech on the following evening, and the other showing the amount of time given to the issue on Sunday night news programs (spoiler alert: it’s zero minutes for all “serious” news programs). As you can see, it was The Daily Show and David Letterman who really did Obama’s speech justice – you can watch a roundup of the comics’ opinions (apparently the only ones that really matter) here.

Does the News of the World Scandal Reach as Far as Climategate?

Photo by Edgar Zuniga Jr. Some rights reserved.

Before anger and controversy gave way to shaving-cream-pie related antics yesterday, the big story of the week was the phone-hacking debacle surrounding Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World, a popular tabloid in the UK which has now been accused of both intercepting phone calls and emails of celebrities, politicians, and the families of September 11th victims and paying off Scotland Yard to keep the affair under wraps.

At progressive environmental news site Climate Progress, editor Joe Romm takes a look at how the News of the World scandal indicates that the same party may have played a role in 2009’s “Climategate” incident, in which hundreds of private emails and documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (the British database of global temperature records) were made public. The documents were initially thought to display manipulated data that inflates the cause of climate scientists, and was considered by advocates for climate control to be a part of a smear campaign aimed to undermine the then-upcoming climate change summit in Copenhagen. Though an inquiry and review by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee earlier this year found that the leaked documents were factually sound, Romm remained skeptical, asking in an earlier post regarding the accuracy of the documents: “If anyone can find any serious U.S. media coverage of this, please post it.”

Now, in the aftermath of the News of the World scandal, Romm has called for an independent investigation relating the leaked CRU documents to the publication. As he points out, we now know that Scotland Yard, who were tasked with the immediate investigation of the leaked documents, were receiving £1000 a day from NotW executive editor Neil Wallis, who was arrested last week for his role in illegally intercepting communications.

“In the light of the News Corp phone-hacking scandal,” Romm writes, “it is clear that Murdoch’s outfit had means, motive, and opportunity for the Climategate email hacking.” Of course, Romm admits his case is based mostly on speculation and, of course, the massive amount of corruption involved so far in the still-unraveling News Corp scandal. And of course we could further speculate on the political-leanings of most Murdoch-owned media, or highlight a story from late last year that found in a leaked email that Fox News anchors were under strict orders from above to get “on-message” regarding climate change. Certainly, given the circumstances, Romm has a right to at least be suspicious. But let’s just see what happens, shall we?

Media Matters Study Unveils Remarkable/Predictable Mainstream News Bias

Photo by espensorvik. Some rights reserved.

A new study conducted by the generally-liberal media research organization Media Matters and released today shows that a staggering 76% of guests on major television networks (cable news channels CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, and Fox Business and prime-time news shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) brought on to discuss climate change between December 2009 and April 2011 were against EPA regulation of greenhouse gases. That’s 152 of 199 guests, with Republicans outnumbering Democrats 6 to 1. Because Fox News has become (rightly) maligned-to-the-point-of-caricature by the left as an all-powerful right-wing propaganda robot (which, I mean, have you seen their ratings?), this news may not come as a surprise; after all, if Fox News is both the most powerful and the most outspokenly partisan news network, it would follow suit that their opinions ring out the loudest in studies like these (81% of Fox News’ guests and 83% of Fox Business’ guests were opponents of the EPA). But let’s take a closer look at some of the numbers and maybe let them sink in a little more.

First, though, some quick catch-up on why the study is important. In April of 2007, after suits filed against the Environmental Protection Agencies, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA does have a constitutional right to regulate greenhouse gases, provided there is a scientific link between GHG emissions and climate change. This ruling then spurred four years (and counting) of Republican efforts in Congress to reverse the decision or argue against the EPA’s rights to monitor climate change and emission rates.

Media Matters’ study shows that only one side of this debate is being clearly represented on network news, and that perhaps the most relevant voices, those of climate scientists, have been left out of the conversation entirely. To be fair, MSNBC, the channel most akin to a liberal counterweight to Fox News, hosted four times as many PROponents of the EPA as opponents, but had far fewer guests on to discuss the subject than their “fair and balanced” rivals. The nightly news programs on the big four networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX), on the other hand, featured almost no outside opinions on the subject, featuring instead more non-biased, “straight” news stories. In perhaps the more bizarre element of the report, only one of the TV guests over the 17 months of the study had an actual background in climate science. This was EPA-skeptic Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute, and a Mother Jones report last year showed that Michaels’ research has been largely funded by the coal and oil industries, and that in 2006 he received $100,000 in funds from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association to speak out against climate change supporters, in the wake of An Inconvenient Truth.

There are a number of things that could be deduced from the report; Media Matters go into very little analytics themselves, and leave the numbers to speak for themselves. It could of course be argued that because the Supreme Court has already sided with the EPA, it’s the Republican faction that has to do most of the offensive work in the climate change debate. To me, this is more of a fascinating look at the huge shadows cast by mainstream news than anything. The binary, partisan lines involved in cable news should be obvious to anyone with even a passing interest in such things. What’s really interesting is that a CNN study done in April (and echoed by a similar study done by ABC) showed that 71% of its viewers support GHG regulations; as CNN is often considered the “moderate” middle child between MSNBC and Fox, what does this gap between their viewers’ opinions and their editorial content say about the direction mainstream news is headed? Discuss?
(Again, I’ll advocate for looking over the results of the study yourself as it provides information in a clear, readable fashion with pretty infographics and a nice timeline of the EPA’s involvement in GHG regulation.)

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