The Union of Concerned Scientists yesterday announced the findings of a study it undertook of the accuracy of Fox News and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) opinion page coverage of climate change, which has become the polite euphemism for describing the rapid and destructive warming of the Earth. Note that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation owns both of these media outlets.
In announcing the results, a climate scientist with the organization noted that they began the study because they had heard a large amount of anecdotal information that “suggested that there was bias and misrepresentation at the News Corporation of the fact that human-induced climate change is happening...” In other words, instead of accepting the anecdotes, the organization did what scientists are supposed to do: they objectively gathered the facts and then analyzed them.
And the results don’t draw a pretty picture of the intellectual honesty of either Fox or the Journal.
The analysis found that over a recent six-month period of prime time coverage, 93% of all references to climate change on Fox News had misleading information.
For the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page, another six-month analysis revealed that a mere 81% of climate change mentions had misleading information, but get this—every single example of an accurate presentation of climate change facts and issues came in letters to the editor in rebuttal to inaccuracies presented in Journal columns, articles and editorials.
The study found that on Fox News, the most common criticism of climate science was to dismiss the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring or human-induced. In the Journal (quoting the report), “most of the misleading editorials, op-eds, columns, and letters attempted to broadly undermine the major conclusions of climate science. Instances of attacks on individual scientists, mocking the science, and cherry picking data were all equally common.”
The results of this analysis are stunning because they reveal to what extent large numbers of people are being manipulated by the lies and false assumptions of climate change deniers. We expect this kind of mendacity from Fox News, but for years, the Wall Street Journal has had a mostly deserved reputation for accurate reporting of news events.
Just in case you were wondering, the Union of Concerned Scientists has been around since 1969. Its mission statement states that “The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.”
My first thought in reviewing the study was that it was proof that there has been way too much consolidation of media properties. There used to be laws preventing companies from owning more than a certain number of radio or TV stations. The laws were there for a reason: to prevent one company or person from being able to dominate the news media and therefore replace the free marketplace of ideas. It was a great example of government regulation increasing democracy and freedom. These rules are mostly gone, and the result is that about 8 companies now control most of the broadcast and print media and the publishing industry.
But then I checked Google News to see how many stories there were about this study one day after its release. The answer is not very complimentary to the rest of the media: it was a number less than 2.
Yes, dear readers, so far only one media outlet has found and covered the news that News Corporation’s two flagship media outlets regularly deceive the public about one of the most important issues of the 21st century. Whether that’s an example of shoddy reporting or self-censorship I’ll leave to my readers to decide.
To help you with your decision, I’ll close by noting that an update on the stormy romantic relationship between an actor and an actress got 146,000 hits on Google News, while the suspension of the driving license of another actress garnered 110,000 hits and the bachelor party of another actor got a mere 5,140 hits.