Several former Wall Street Journal environmental reporters -- including a one-time environmental editor at the paper -- criticized the paper's editorial page for its history of skewed coverage of environmental issues.
The former staffers reacted to last week's lengthy report on the Journal editorial page's poor record on environmental issues posted by Media Matters. The report details the Journal editorial board's long history of distorting facts to downplay concerns about issues ranging from the ozone layer to acid rain.
Notably, the Journal continues to cast doubt on whether human activities are contributing to climate change in the face of a strong scientific consensus driven by abundant evidence. Following the pattern they used in responding to previous environmental threats, the paper has downplayed this consensus, claimed that fixing any potential problem is too expensive, and attacked those seeking to fix the problem as motivated by politics, not science.
The head of North America's leading association of environmental journalists and several environmental journalism professors with years of experience in the field are criticizing The Wall Street Journal editorial page's decades-long history of undermining scientific facts and consensus to dismiss environmental threats.
Using phrases like "disingenuous," "misleading," and "dangerous," some of the nation's top scientific news instructors and veteran reporters weighed in with harsh comments on the Journal's practices.
The science journalism veterans reacted to a lengthy report on the Journal editorial page's poor record with regard to environmental issues posted today by Media Matters. The report shows a history of the Journal editorial board distorting facts to downplay concerns about issues ranging from the ozone layer to acid rain.
Notably, the Journal continues to cast doubt on the fact that human activities are contributing to climate change in the face of a strong scientific consensus driven by abundant evidence. Following the pattern they used in responding to previous environmental threats, the paper has downplayed this consensus, claimed that fixing any potential problem is too expensive, and attacked those seeking to fix the problem as motivated by politics, not science.
Carolyn Whetzel, president of the Society of Environmental Journalists and an environmental reporter for the private publisher Bloomberg BNA, said such behavior by the Journal is "not grounded in facts."
"In the case of climate change, there is strong body of scientific evidence that shows climate change is occurring and that is caused by human activities," she said. "This has been reported in hundreds of news outlets in the U.S. and around the world. Editorials that argue otherwise simply do not reflect peer-reviewed science and may confuse the news consuming public."
"There's a lot of that going on, in terms of the opinion pieces not based on, not grounded in the facts," she added. "You can have your own opinions and the facts are the facts and in many cases on these issues, the facts speak loudly as to what's true, what the research finds and shows."
Whetzel and others also pointed out that the impact of the Journal as a news source and influential opinion page makes its inaccuracies even more problematic.
"It can sway opinion," she noted about the Journal editorial pages, later adding, "I personally respect much of the Journal's reporting, but when I read the editorial page I go into it knowing it is the editorial page. If the editorial page skews the facts it is confusing and that creates a lot of uncertainty, including [with regard to] environmental issues and particularly climate change."
Leading Latino leaders are criticizing the Fox News website Fox News Latino, saying it lacks credibility among Hispanics by profiting from them even as they are demonized by the conservative parent network known for anti-immigrant coverage.
Since it launched in 2010, Fox News Latino has positioned itself as "the place to go for news that impacts the Latino Community," covering news, politics, entertainment, and other stories through that lens.
"We were skeptical when we heard about this," Inez Gonzalez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said of the creation of Fox News Latino. "Fox News is a big voice in the anti-Latino rhetoric, so we were skeptical. Some of the articles that I have seen have been interesting to me, [but] I think the owners are hypocrites. I think they are totally forgetting there is double speak here.
"They should be called on for their hypocrisy because they are blasting Latinos in English media and courting us in Latino media, hoping no one who is reading it is bilingual. I don't use Fox News Latino as a source. I would not use Fox News as a source because I know their history. I would question their statistics because I know where they are coming from. They're still Fox."
Indeed, the tone of Fox News Latino's coverage of issues like immigration dramatically differs from that of other parts of the Fox News family, which typically adopt a hardline slant.
Last month after President Obama announced that his administration would no longer seek to deport young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children, Fox News Latino covered the story using the headline "Obama Administration Halts Deportations for Undocumented Children" and featuring a photo of a Latina activist in front of the U.S. Capitol.
By contrast, the Fox Nation website headlined its story on the subject "Obama Administration Bypasses Congress, to Give Immunity, Stop Deporting Younger Illegals" accompanied by a photo of handcuffed young Latinos.
Such disparities in coverage between the Latino-focused website and the rest of the right-wing network are frequent, with other instances including a January 2011 border shooting and last month's Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration law.
Fox News hosts and personalities regularly demonize immigrants, refusing to abandon the slur "illegals" though other outlets have done so. The network also cheerleads controversial immigration laws like those in Arizona and Alabama, and outlandish smears of immigrants.
"Their record will ultimately catch up with them, you can't be a media company and think you are hiding your message," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. "Latinos aren't dumb. They understand who is on their side and who is not."
Incoming New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan says she believes that "newspapers must be truth vigilantes" and that such a focus is "a clear part of our mission."
Sullivan, whose appointment to the position was announced Monday, will take over the post from current public editor Arthur Brisbane on Sept. 1, 2012.
Brisbane drew criticism for a January 12 report in which he posed the question, "Should the Times Be a Truth Vigilante?" In his piece, he said he was "looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge 'facts' that are asserted by newsmakers they write about." As Adam Clark Estes observed at The Atlantic Wire, "The immediate answer, everyone we follow [on Twitter] seemed to agree, was a resounding YES."
In a follow-up post, Brisbane said he had been misunderstood, and that his "inquiry related to whether The Times, in the text of news columns, should more aggressively rebut 'facts' that are offered by newsmakers when those 'facts' are in question." He added, "I consider this a difficult question, not an obvious one." Responding to his original post, Times executive editor Jill Abramson wrote that "[t]he kind of rigorous fact-checking and truth-testing you describe is a fundamental part of our job as journalists" and that "[w]e do it every day, in a variety of ways."
In an interview with Media Matters, Sullivan, currently editor of The Buffalo News, said she agrees with the contention that newspapers must challenge facts presented by sources or news subjects if they are found to be in dispute, a position she said put her in step with both her predecessor and Abramson.
"I think that possibly what came out of that was that we all know and Arthur Brisbane knows and Jill Abramson knows and every one of us knows that newspapers must be truth vigilantes and there never really was any question about that I don't think," she said Monday. "Certainly that's a value that we all share and that's not really in question. It's a clear part of our mission, to ferret out the truth. What else are we here for?"
Asked Monday if accepting answers from subjects and sources at face value is not enough, Sullivan added:
"For any newspaper, for any news organization, I don't think it's nearly enough, we have to be much more searching. I think that challenging facts and getting to the bottom of statements is central to the mission of journalism. To me, it's a very clear cut kind of thing."
Sullivan, 55, comes to the Times post after 13 years as editor of The Buffalo News and an employee of that paper since 1980.
On how she plans to approach the job -- and perhaps differently from her four predecessors -- Sullivan said, "I think that ... the difference is that we live in a very different era right now. It has changed a whole lot in just the past couple of years."
"We are so immersed in digital culture and the Public Editor's role needs to respond to that. I see this as a way of aggregating the comment and criticism and discussion that's out there into a probably daily or close to daily blog, getting reader comment going in a real time basis and have a true sort of ongoing online conversation with the Times readers about the New York Times," she added.
The union representing most newsroom staffers at The Wall Street Journal is telling workers to seek "every dime" they earn in reaction to recent cutbacks and increased workload.
In a fiery email sent to 1,500 union members Wednesday, Steve Yount, president of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees Local 1096. noted that 62 employees of parent company Dow Jones were laid off this year, including 31 in late June alone.
IAPE represents journalists at the Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, Barron's, SmartMoney, SmartMoney.com, MarketWatch, and all sales, support, and technical staff within those outlets, Yount said.
The email goes on to urge staffers to seek any additional compensation -- such as comp time, vacation time, and holiday pay -- they earn, a practice that had not always been followed to the letter. According to Yount, "The company is counting, as always, on your willingness to work for free: stay late or work weekends and never charge the company," but "Those days of free labor have to end."
The email states:
Since the first of the year, Dow Jones has laid off 62 of your co-workers (31 of them in the last week of June) and once again senior management is telling you "we simply have to do more with less." That means they get more and you get less.The company is counting, as always, on your willingness to work for free: stay late or work weekends and never charge the company.
Those days of free labor have to end.
Not everyone is eligible for overtime (most reporters aren't eligible for overtime, but all are eligible for, at least, comp time) and everyone is eligible for holiday pay and a premium for working on a scheduled day off. From now on, you have to file for every dime the contract says that the company owes you. We have to clearly demonstrate that we're tired of "Doing More With Less" and that there's No More Free Labor from Dow Jones employees. I promise you that IAPE will aggressively pursue each and every claim. If you have any problems or questions, let me know or reach out directly to union organizer Tim Martell.
IAPE CWA 1096
Dow Jones reported on many of the most recent layoffs last month when it announced the shutdown of SmartMoney's print production.
Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
When Idaho state legislators proposed a seemingly uncontroversial bill to ban access to commercial tanning beds by minors earlier this year, IdahoReporter.com took up the issue with force.
The state news website, an affiliate of the conservative Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and overseen by the free market Idaho Freedom Foundation, posted six stories on the proposal between Feb. 16 and March 22, when the bill was voted down in a state Senate Committee.
The Franklin Center is a multimillion-dollar organization whose websites and affiliates provide free statehouse reporting to local newspapers and other media across the country. Funded by major conservative donors, staffed by veterans of groups affiliated with the Koch brothers, and maintaining a regular presence hosting right-wing events, the organization boasts of its ability to fill the void created by state newsroom layoffs.
The group's editors claim that their "professional journalism" work is walled off from the organization's more nakedly political operations and say that their "pro-taxpayer, pro-liberty, free market perspective" doesn't compromise their accuracy or independence. But many journalism professionals - even newspaper editors who reprint the work of Franklin Center affiliates in their own pages - speak warily of the group's ideological bent.
More than half of all public broadcasting stations would be put "at risk" if federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were eliminated, according to a new report commissioned in response to attacks from conservatives that put the funding in jeopardy.
The report stated: "Ending federal funding for public broadcasting would severely diminish, if not destroy, public broadcasting service in the United States."
The study, released June 20 from Booz & Company Inc., reviewed alternative funding options for public broadcasting if federal funding is removed. It found that trying to replace such funding -- which accounts for about 15% of CPB's operating budget -- with advertising and other revenue would be detrimental as well.
In 2011, a House vote to defund National Public Radio was supported by numerous conservative commentators, many spouting false claims of liberal bias and citing alternative sources that could be used to replace the federal dollars -- many of which the CPB report finds ineffective.
"There have been a lot of suggestions that public broadcasters could just turn to commercial broadcasting, but this report shows that is not possible," said Tim Isgitt, senior vice-president for communications and government affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. "The most surprising thing that comes out of this report is that advertising would significantly limit our other funding sources; foundations provide funding because it is a public good and mission driven. They wouldn't do that if we were a commercial model, and individual members would be less likely to give money to an entity that is commercial."
The study was commissioned at the request of the Conference Report accompanying the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012 (H.R. 2055). The report states that "the conferees requested that CPB provide a report to House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 180 days of enactment of the Act on alternative sources of funding for public broadcasting stations in lieu of federal funding."
The report states, in part:
A reduction or elimination of CPB funding will put 63% (251) of radio stations and 67% (114) of television stations in the public broadcasting system at risk:
19% (76) of radio stations and 32% (54) of TV Stations that currently operate at a minimum practical cost level, and would be at a high risk of closing.
44% (175) of radio stations and 35% (60) of TV stations have a history of operating deficits and would suffer reduced effectiveness or closure under increased financial pressure.
The president of the White House Correspondents Association criticized Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro for repeatedly interrupting President Obama today during an event, calling it "discourteous" and "not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves."
Caren Bohan, a Reuters White House correspondent and current WHCA president, made the comments in a phone interview with Media Matters this afternoon.
"It was discourteous and it's not the way reporters who cover the White House conduct themselves," Bohan said in the interview. "I've covered a number of events where the president has spoken and there are times when we need to shout a question to him. But typically reporters wait until he has finished speaking."
Bohan also said that Munro is an associate member of the WHCA, not a regular member.
According to the WHCA website, an associate member "must be employed on the editorial staff of a newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio, TV, cable TV or other broadcast organization or newsgathering organization that reports on the White House. Associate members may not vote or hold elective office."
Asked if Munro's membership would be affected by this incident, Bohan said such decisions are up to the WHCA executive board.
Three former WHCA presidents, meanwhile, also weighed in on the situation.
Ed Chen, a former Bloomberg White House correspondent and WHCA president during the 2009-2010 term, said in an email that Munro: "Betrays a shocking disrespect for the office. He owes the president a written apology." Chen also described it as "Rude. Forgot the manners he must have been taught once upon a time."
Ron Hutcheson, a former McClatchy White House correspondent and WHCA president in 2004-2005, stated: "Aggressive journalism serves our democracy. Rudeness serves no useful purpose. This was rudeness."
C-SPAN host and political editor Steve Scully, a former WHCA board member and former president, told Media Matters that Munro's actions were unusual.
"Anytime the president is delivering remarks from The White House, there has been a long standing tradition for the POTUS to make his statements, almost always followed by questions by the press corps," Scully said in an email. "It was indeed unusual for the president to be interrupted by a reporter during the middle of his remarks and clearly it caught President Obama off-guard, simply because it doesn't happen that often."
Steve Thomma, a current McClatchy White House correspondent who has been on the beat since the Clinton administration, called Munro's behavior "counterproductive."
"I think it's possible to be civil and persistent, they don't have to be mutually exclusive. You don't have to yell. There is nothing wrong with asking a question, but there is nothing wrong with waiting until the president finishes a statement," he said. "It seems counterproductive. If you are really trying to get an answer, you can wait. He might have answered it. I would not interrupt the president's statement to ask a question."
Veteran investigative reporters are objecting to claims that a string of stories about internal national security operations are the result of a White House problem with leaks, saying such journalism is just the usual in-depth investigative reporting.
One Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist described the stories as the result of "classic investigative reporting" and said the reporters involved "don't do their work by sucking up to politicians."
Among the stories being cited are The New York Times' uncovering of a U.S. cyberattack targeting Iran's nuclear program and the Obama administration's secret "kill list" for its campaign of drone strikes.
The cyberattack story, by the Times' David Sanger, has drawn much of the attention, with information for that article coming from research Sanger did for his recent book, Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.
Despite the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder last Friday directed two federal prosecutors to open investigations into the issue, many conservatives continue to agitate for a special prosecutor to look into the potential leaks.
But longtime investigative journalists tell Media Matters the recent stories under scrutiny were just good investigative reporting and mark no major change in White House security.
"This is normal," said Walter Pincus, the veteran Washington Post investigative reporter. "The thing that is most normal about it is that look at Sanger's stuff, somebody's writing a book, Bob [Woodward] does it all the time. If you're writing a book and nothing is going to appear the next day and you keep going back and back and take a little bit here and a little bit there, that's how you put these things together."
Dana Priest, Pincus' colleague at the Post and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for her own investigative journalism, agreed.
"That is what this looks like, classic investigative reporting," Priest said in an interview. "Talk about the reporters who are on these stories, they are all veteran investigative reporters. They don't do their work by sucking up to politicians in the hopes they will leak them some things. They do the investigative work. I don't know if people outside understand that."
The Newspaper Guild is criticizing The Washington Post and its publisher Katharine Weymouth following a report this week that she stands to earn millions of dollars in stock-based performance incentives in the coming years while the newspaper continues to accept buyouts from staffers and struggle with continued losses.
Washington City Paper reported Tuesday that in addition to making nearly $2 million per year in 2010 and 2011, Weymouth could be in line to make millions more in stock bonuses in coming years:
Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth was criticized last year by Post employees when it was revealed that she made over $2 million in 2010. Weymouth's salary decreased in 2011, as the paper prepared to offer buyouts to employees, but only by a little--she made $1.9 million.
For all the attention that has been given to Weymouth's salary, she could earn much, much more in the coming years if she makes her performance targets. According to an SEC filing made last week by the Post, Weymouth stands to receive as many as 42,500 shares in restricted stock awards by 2018 if she meets the goals. If the Post stays around its current stock price, at $363.51 when the market closed yesterday, that would be worth around $15.4 million.
This would represent a huge jump in Weymouth's stock awards. Since 2009, Weymouth has received a comparatively miniscule 7,500 shares.
Restricted stocks awards, in which stock is given outright to an employee, are different from stock options, which only give the recipient the option to buy shares at a set price.
The story comes less than two months after the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild revealed that at least 32 Post employees had accepted a recent buyout offer, the fifth since 2004.
Poynter.org reported in a Feb. 8, 2012, article about the Post buyouts that the newspaper's revenue in the third quarter of 2011 was down 9 percent from the same period in 2010, with advertising revenue down 20 percent. The company's newspaper division had lost $9.9 million in the third quarter alone, Poynter reported.
Asked to comment on the latest Weymouth bonus potential, Fredrick Kunkle, a co-chair of the Guild's Post unit, issued this statement to Media Matters:
I can tell you it's galling as hell to think that we have squeezed more bodies out of the newsroom, outsourced more jobs across the company and given most of the remaining employees pay increases that don't even keep up with inflation so that senior executives can pay their country club dues. It's even more shameless when you consider that the various strategies hatched by some of these bonus recipients have failed to boost the stock price or increase ad revenues, and yet arguably have diminished the Post's stature everywhere except among fans of squirrel galleries. But I guess we'll always have Watergate.
Post officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.