Major Ohio newspapers used right-wing framing to cover the re-emergence of a right-to-work movement in the state after recent right-to-work victories in Indiana and Michigan. Though the narrative is only just developing, the Toledo Blade and the Cincinnati Enquirer already failed to challenge the veracity of statements from the movement's special interest supporters.
The Cincinnati Enquirer parroted the demand of the state and regional chambers of commerce that right-to-work in Ohio "needs the law to compete" with Indiana and Michigan." From the December 11 article:
As neighboring Michigan moved Tuesday to become a "right-to-work" state - and 10,000 protesters jammed the lawn of its Capitol - Ohio groups who support the laws say Ohio has to follow suit or watch jobs leave.
"When we are working with companies who want to investigate locations, the first question on their list is right to work," said Phillip Parker, president and chief executive officer of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce. He later backed off his statement at an afternoon press conference, but there are other indications the fight may be coming to Ohio.
A group called Ohioans for Workplace Freedom is gathering signatures to put the issue on the fall ballot. They need 385,253.
"Indiana has done this. Michigan will. What choice will Ohio have," tea party activist Chris Littleton of West Chester told the Toledo Blade this week. "This is economic jet fuel for job creation, wage growth and a vibrant Ohio economy. If two border states do this, how can Ohio afford not to do this?"
Meanwhile, the Toledo Blade reported on December 11:
As Michigan lawmakers prepare today to make the Wolverine State the latest right-to-work state, petitions are circulating on Ohio streets to put a similar issue directly before Buckeye voters.
"People are ready to double-down. ... Michigan has revitalized a lot of our effort," said Chris Littleton, former president of the Ohio Liberty Council, the closest thing Ohio has to a statewide Tea Party group.
He said the petition effort was sidetracked by the 2012 elections, but a meeting of regional volunteers last week was energized by what's happening in Michigan. The goal is to gather roughly 380,000 signatures needed by early July to qualify for the November, 2013, election.
"Indiana has done this," he said. "Michigan will. What choice will Ohio have? This is economic jet fuel for job creation, wage growth, and a vibrant Ohio economy. If two border states do this, how can Ohio afford not to do this?"
The assertion made by the Ohio chambers and the Tea Party source -- that Ohio won't be able to remain competitive without a right-to-work law now that its neighbors have passed them -- will likely be repeated in the coming months, even though it runs contrary to expert opinion.
The Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute both found that right-to-work laws have "no significant positive impact" on employment and "no statistically significant impact" on job growth. Hofstra University professor Lonnie Stevans found that right-to-work laws yield "little or no gain in employment and real economic growth," and studies show that right-to-work states have lower wages among both union and non-union workers.
The Economic Policy Institute also debunked the claim that right-to-work plays a primary role in a company's decision to open shop in a given state when they found "not a single" business executive in Indiana who said right-to-work "made the difference" to their decisions:
Not a single company says it came to Indiana because of RTW
[The Indiana Economic Development Commission (IEDC)] is a vocal advocate for RTW. Yet, while the agency reports that scores of companies have "communicated" that RTW "will factor into their decision-making process of where to locate," the commission's Legislative Update report does not identify a single company that says RTW made the difference in their decision to locate in Indiana. The commission offers quotes from a number of executives who praise RTW, but not a single one says it made the difference to their decisions.
Philip Anschutz, billionaire oil baron-turned-media mogul, has acquired the Colorado Springs Gazette, adding the Colorado daily to a growing stable of Anschutz-controlled newspapers that includes the largest newspaper in the neighboring state of Oklahoma; and if the past is any indication, the future objectivity of the Gazette's content, especially as it pertains to energy issues, is in considerable peril.
Since being acquired by Anschutz in September 2011, The Oklahoman, especially its editorial page, has consistently advocated for energy policy positions that would line its owner's pockets. The Gazette looks poised to follow suit -- other than the goal of providing content across a variety of technological platforms, the only specific changes Anschutz has promised (through his media company Clarity Media Group) constitute a vast expansion of the paper's opinion pages, with no mention of additional resources needed to report the news.
From the Gazette's editorial board (emphasis added):
In coming weeks, expect to see exciting changes. Clarity executives plan to add pages and personnel. The opinion section will expand from one page to at least two on weekdays, and possibly more on Sundays. We will add new columnists and additional editorials. Readers should begin seeing changes very soon.
Mostly, we will work with more dedication than ever to serve our community with news and information our customers want and need. We plan to inform customers in print and on all platforms, ranging from smartphones, to tablets, to laptops and all other information mediums the public chooses to embrace today and into the future. We will inform, persuade and entertain. We will serve as a watchdog, guarding liberty and the interests of our community.
Given Colorado's importance as a (re-)emerging source of oil shale and natural gas, and given Anschutz's use of The Oklahoman's opinion pages to advocate for open drilling policies and against carbon controls, Gazette readers can likely expect a similar kind of distorted coverage and commentary. (In late November, for example, The Oklahoman's editors expressed skepticism about global warming and warned against "mixing science" with politics).
And the Gazette's current editors didn't wrap up their announcement with reassurances that their coverage would remain independent and uninfluenced by ownership -- just the opposite, in fact:
Anschutz has been successful in business, ranking high on the Forbes 400 for decades, because he works to improve the world he lives in.
We at The Gazette plan to help him expand this important role.
Of course, the Forbes 400 doesn't rank people on their contributions to society -- it's a "definitive ranking of the nation's super rich." Presumably, Anschutz has remained on the list for decades because he's skilled at making money, and he now has the Gazette to help him make even more.
The Oklahoman advocated for the separation of science and policy in its editorial pages, expressing serious misgivings about the veracity of manmade climate change and warning that we shouldn't "mi[x] science" with politics. The newspaper is Oklahoma's largest source of printed news and is owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.
In a November 28 editorial headlined "Mixing science, politics can result in bad policy," The Oklahoman put scare quotes around the word "science" when discussing global warming and argued that, because the science of climate change isn't "settled," it may as well be ignored by policymakers (emphasis added):
[S]cientific evidence for global warming remains muddled at best. The United Kingdom-based Daily Mail recently noted data compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea showed the world stopped getting warmer nearly 16 years ago. Before that, temperatures rose from 1980 to 1996, but had been stable or declined for the 40 years prior to that period. Some scientists believe those temperature changes are a product of natural variability and non-manmade causes. Definitive proof remains elusive for all sides.
Those who claim science is "settled" don't understand science. In 1854, cholera was tied to contaminated water. It took nearly 30 years before that explanation was accepted over theories blaming bad vapors for outbreaks.
When politics taints science more than science improves and informs policy, the results can be distressing. Should we wipe out countless jobs and increase economic hardship for families in the name of global warming theories that could ultimately prove no more valid than the cholera-vapors link?
Skeptical Science, a website dedicated to "explain[ing] what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming," responded to arguments by climate change skeptics who claim, like The Oklahoman, that the science isn't "settled," and is therefore unworthy of consideration by policymakers and politicians:
No science is ever "settled"; science deals in probabilities, not certainties. When the probability of something approaches 100%, then we can regard the science, colloquially, as "settled".
Outside of logic and mathematics, we do not live in a world of certainties. Science comes to tentative conclusions based on the balance of evidence. The more independent lines of evidence are found to support a scientific theory, the closer it is likely to be to the truth. Just because some details are still not well understood should not cast into doubt our understanding of the big picture: humans are causing global warming.
In most aspects of our lives, we think it rational to make decisions based on incomplete information. We will take out insurance when there is even a slight probability that we will need it. Why should our planet's climate be any different?
The National Research Council (NRC) echoed these sentiments in a climate change report, stating that the occurrence of manmade global warming was "so thoroughly examined and tested" that there is a "vanishingly small" likelihood that the findings will be overturned. The report also reiterated the point that certain scientific conclusions have been more thoroughly verified than others, which should have been obvious to editors at The Oklahoman, who dubiously compared modern studies on climate change to 19th century theories about cholera outbreaks. From the NRC report (emphasis added):
From a philosophical perspective, science never proves anything--in the manner that mathematics or other formal logical systems prove things--because science is fundamentally based on observations. Any scientific theory is thus, in principle, subject to being refined or overturned by new observations. In practical terms, however, scientific uncertainties are not all the same. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities. In other cases, particularly for matters that are at the leading edge of active research, uncertainties may be substantial and important. In these cases, care must be taken not to draw stronger conclusions than warranted by the available evidence.
The Oklahoman published its editorial just one week after the Washington Examiner (also owned by Anschutz) published an op-ed arguing that cutting carbon emissions is futile, raising ethical questions about the papers' tendencies to oppose any policies that would harm their owner's pocketbook.
And The Oklahoman's editorial serves as yet another piece of evidence that conservative voices will attack any peer-reviewed science that doesn't align with their political agenda. Earlier this year, a study by the American Sociological Association looked at "trends in public trust in science in the United States from 1974 to 2010." They found that "conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to liberals and moderates, and ended the period with the lowest," a finding that seemed to confirm the theories expounded by Chris Mooney in his 2005 book The Republican War on Science -- that the conservative movement has developed a uniquely adversarial relationship with scientific conclusions. The Oklahoman's "Mixing science, politics can result in bad policy" is a clear illustration of this phenomenon.
Deputy editorial page editor Kevin O'Brien used his weekly platform in the pages of The Cleveland Plain Dealer to parrot national conservatives by encouraging the Republican-led House of Representatives to continue its policies of obstruction and explaining that people who voted for President Obama are either socialists or consider the president to be a "fun fad."
In his November 7 column titled "It's twilight in America," O'Brien also argued that Obama is "bent on [America's] fundamental transformation" -- a prospect furthered by a "rogue Congress" that passed the president's healthcare bill in spite of "what was then popular." O'Brien called on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to continue acting as a "firewall" of obstructionism. He wrote (emphasis added):
For the half of America that understands the peril in which their country stands, the House remains the firewall, just as it has been these last two years. And for at least two more years, the House will not let us down.
It all seems the perfect recipe for gridlock, and gridlock probably will seem to be the result.
But in this presidential term, nothing as healthy as gridlock will be achieved, because Barack Obama's re-election changes everything.
Absent a miracle, the president will achieve the fundamental transformation he desires for America.
The passage of Obamacare by a rogue Congress that ignored what was then the popular will has put this country on a course toward socialism and a different popular will.
Given the chance to change that course with this election, Americans -- by a very thin margin in the popular vote -- declined.
O'Brien also attempted to explain to readers exactly why voters would have chosen Obama over GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (emphasis added):
Some declined because they just don't see a problem. For young voters, especially, Obama is a fun fad -- a celebrity president who promises them all sorts of wonderful things that are either free or that someone else will pay for. Many of them will come to their senses when they realize they're permanently worse off than their parents, but that will take time.
Some declined because they actually see socialism as a desirable outcome. They have been fed the progressive line from kindergarten through graduate school, and they believe it sincerely. They also plan to be among the elites who, in a more enlightened country, will make the decisions for the rest of us. To them, Obama is a kindred spirit.
Some declined because a bigger, more activist, more paternal government benefits them directly, either by employing them or by providing for them in other ways. Mitt Romney may not have been right about their numbers -- his off-the-cuff reference to 47 percent of the population was a little high -- but he was right about their existence, their political priorities and their strength in the voting booth.
But I think most declined because they're simply afraid of what lies ahead. Rather than facing the problems of incipient fiscal calamity and sociocultural rot, they opted for more reassurances from an Obama-led Washington that all will be well if we just tax more and spend more.
O'Brien's message to Ohioans echoes the themes national conservatives have been pushing since Election Night -- to encourage more GOP obstruction and to explain away Obama's re-election by dismissing half of the electorate as wards of the state or people who just want "free stuff."
Meanwhile, editorial boards at Ohio newspapers in nearby Columbus and Toledo argued that the president won re-election because Republicans followed the conservative movement too far to the right. From the Toledo Blade:
Republicans must step out of the shadows of the party's far-right wing. If the Tea Party continues to dictate the Republican Party's platform, the GOP not only will fail to broaden its base, but also will continue to alienate traditional, more moderate Republicans.
And the Columbus Dispatch noted:
Now it's time for responsible Republicans to take their party back from the fringe that loses them elections. It's not true that Republicans needed better candidates. They had excellent contenders. The problem was that the electable ones couldn't leap the lunacy barrier erected by the right wing.
The most widely circulated papers in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington covered the debate over same-sex marriage in their state extensively in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Though all four publications endorsed marriage equality, their news coverage largely ignored the extremism of anti-equality groups and often devolved into "he said-she said" journalism that failed to correct anti-gay misinformation.
A lengthy South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on Florida's Election Day fiascos whitewashed Republican Gov. Rick Scott's role in creating horrific voting scenarios that have made the state a national laughingstock and disenfranchised parts of the Florida electorate.
The article, published in the November 8 edition of the Sun-Sentinel, buried Scott's refusal to follow a Florida tradition of extending early-voting hours after reports over the weekend that voters stood in long lines waiting for hours to cast a ballot and noted his refusal only in the context of partisan criticism from former governor and "Obama supporter" Charlie Crist. Worse, the article seemed to imply that Scott joined President Obama in expressing a strong desire to fix the system that he left broken. His comments, however, don't reflect the empathy attributed to him by the reporter. From the article (emphasis added):
Images of long, long lines of people in South Florida waiting to cast ballots during early voting dominated the airwaves. Many voters in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties reported waiting several hours. That continued on Election Day with some voters in Miami not getting done at the polls until about 1:30 a.m.
Even Obama seemed to have noticed, making an apparent jab at Florida in his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning.
"I want to thank every American who participated in this election whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time," he said. "By the way, we have to fix that."
And the president is not the only one saying that.
Gov. Rick Scott, when questioned last week about the long voter lines, said that seeing so many people turn out to do their civic duty was "exciting."
On Wednesday, Scott stopped short of criticizing the state election's process, but said he would be reviewing it with Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
"What went right, what can we improve?" Scott said.
Coal jobs and coal production in Ohio have increased since 2007, but a Fox News report ignored this fact while claiming that the "universal perception" in Ohio is that the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) "has made [coal] jobs more scarce." Fox News host Martha MacCallum began the segment by asking, "What has the EPA done to deserve such a bad reputation in this part of Ohio?," which reporter Steve Brown deftly avoided answering.
From the November 1 edition of America's Newsroom:
The report featured plenty of video roll of various "war on coal" yard signs and billboards scattered across southeastern Ohio. But, despite being focused on the community's "universal perception" of the EPA (rather than a reality-based discussion of the coal industry), the report featured no public opinion polls and only a single-question interview with a former coal miner.
Even after Fox News posed the leading question, "Is EPA a dirty word out here?," the interviewee could not articulate any specific EPA actions that have caused harm to his community. In fact, the miner began his answer with a reference to the booming oil and natural gas industry -- a coal competitor that poses a major threat to the coal industry in Ohio regardless of the EPA.
And even as long overdue health regulations from the EPA were enacted, coal jobs and coal production are actually up in Ohio. Politifact Ohio wrote yesterday "jobs and coal production in Ohio have increased" since 2007 "by every measurement we could find."
Avoiding reality to shill for coal industry executives and parrot Republican talking points is nothing new for Fox News. It has been shamefully silent on GOP obstructionism that threatens the health of coal miners and earlier this year, and Fox News starred in a coal industry ad attacking the EPA.
Unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent, a number that seemed to bewilder a skeptical MSNBC host Joe Scarborough this morning, who responded to the monthly jobs report by saying, "These numbers don't add up, it doesn't make sense."
Scarborough maintained his skepticism of the number's veracity throughout the October 5 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, despite receiving explanations from analysts like Josh Green, from Bloomberg Businessweek, who noted earlier in the show:
One reason this number went down, is we didn't just add 114,000 new jobs, there were the upward revisions in August and in July. So we're talking well over 200,000 new jobs. I think that's evidence that business is getting off the sidelines, hiring.
Instead, Scarborough turned to former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who tweeted a conspiracy theory implying the Obama administration influenced the unemployment numbers:
The Morning Joe panel read the tweet aloud "for entertainment value," according to Scarborough, but co-host Mike Barnacle responded to the tweet, saying, "I don't know where the number came from, I hope it's accurate - I just don't know."
A two-part Media Matters examinantion of the largest newspapers in CO, NH, NV, OH, PA and VA from July 1-August 15 and from August 16-October 31, 2012 revealed a variety of shortcomings in the way clean energy and regulatory issues are covered by those publications.
Over the weekend, The Oklahoman introduced the first installment of a two-part series on "energy independence" that overwhelmingly focused on the oil and gas industry while failing to note its harmful effects on both the environment and public health. The reliance on oil industry sources is unsurprising given that the paper is owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.