The Associated Press recently presumed to fact-check Washington state Democratic candidate for Governor Jay Inslee for noting that the U.S. "clean-tech sector grew twice as fast as the regular economy between 2003 and 2010." But Inslee's statement is correct -- it was AP that bungled its facts by confusing two terms in a report from the Brookings Institution.
AP noted that Inslee invested in SunPower, a solar company that has recently experienced layoffs, and suggested that, despite his long focus on clean energy, this investment was the reason that Inslee touted federal policies that encourage clean energy growth.
After claiming that SunPower shows the "risk" of investing in clean energy, AP tried to fact-check Inslee's statements on clean energy growth:
Inslee has said voters need to look at the green industry as a whole, not just the fate of individual companies. He's noted that the clean-tech sector grew twice as fast as the regular economy between 2003 and 2010. But that number doesn't give the whole picture.
In a Brookings Institution analysis of the industry last year, researchers determined that the overall clean-energy sector added jobs at an annual rate of 3.4 percent over that seven-year time frame, and the figure lagged the national economy's 4.2 percent annual growth. Inslee has chosen to focus on the growth in a small subset of that industry -- newer clean-tech firms -- that account for less than 10 percent of total jobs in the industry. [Emphasis added]
But AP confused the rate of growth for what Brookings called the "clean economy," which included sectors such as organic farming and public transit, for the rate of growth of the "overall clean-energy sector." As Brookings researcher Kenan Fikri previously told Media Matters, clean energy jobs "have grown at an average annual rate of 11.1 percent." A slightly broader grouping of 13 clean-tech jobs (which includes a smart grid, battery technologies, carbon storage and others) grew 8.3 percent annually, "more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy measured the same way," according to Brookings.
A study released on Monday found that the Great Barrier Reef's coral cover declined by 50% in the past 27 years, partially as a result of human activities. These dramatic findings have caught the attention of scientists, politicians and some media outlets -- even Fox News -- but have been ignored by ABC, NBC, MSNBC and several major newspapers.
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science examined thousands of surveys of the area and found that the amount of seafloor covered with coral has decreased from 28% to 13.8% since 1985, with two-thirds of the decline occurring since 1998. They warned that if this trend continues, "coral cover could halve again by 2022."
The study attributed about half of this loss to intense tropical cyclones, which have caused significant damage to the central and southern parts of the reef and may become more intense as a result of climate change. Because coral reefs act as a protective buffer against tropical storms, this decline exacerbates the impact of storms on marine life and coastal communities.
Another major factor in reef decline is nutrient runoff from agriculture, which has led to "population explosions" of coral-consuming crown-of-thorns starfish along the edge of the reef. Rising ocean temperatures are also increasing the frequency and intensity of coral bleaching, which has had "major detrimental impacts" in the northern and central parts of the Great Barrier Reef. The researchers say this problem is "directly attributable to rising atmospheric greenhouse gases" and that "bleaching mortality will almost certainly increase" as temperatures continue to rise.
These threats -- combined with other problems like ocean acidification, overfishing, and coastal development -- have serious implications for the marine life that depends on the Great Barrier Reef and the millions of tourists who come to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
But ABC and NBC have yet to report on the reef's significant decline during their news broadcasts. Meanwhile, CBS, CNN and even Fox News covered the story, although CNN was the only network to explain on-air that human activity is contributing to the problem:
MSNBC, the Associated Press, USA TODAY, and The Wall Street Journal also did not cover the study.
Media outlets including the Associated Press and CNN are holding President Obama accountable for Mitt Romney's failure to lay out how he will pay for $5 trillion in tax cuts. But independent analysts have estimated that Romney's proposal would cut taxes by $5 trillion, with no specific plan to replace that revenue.
A Media Matters analysis finds that Fox News has aided Republican efforts to make Solyndra the face of clean energy in 2012 by incessantly covering it a year after the company declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have disproportionately hosted opponents of clean energy to discuss Solyndra, and uncritically repeated allegations that Solyndra's loan guarantee was politically motivated, even though a yearlong investigation has found no evidence to support the "crony capitalism" narrative.
The Associated Press's fact check of President Bill Clinton's DNC speech strained to find statements to check, and at one point attempted to fact-check one of Clinton's accurate assertions by bringing up Monica Lewinsky.
AP reporters Matt Apuzzo and Tom Raum claimed that Clinton repeatedly "cherry-picked facts or mischaracterized the opposition." Here's one of the "cherry-picked facts" or mischaracterizations that they identified:
CLINTON: "[The Romney] campaign pollster said, `We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.' Now that is true. I couldn't have said it better myself - I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad."
This is a direct, verbatim quote from Romney pollster Neil Newhouse as he spoke at an ABC News panel in Tampa last week.
The AP fails to explain how this claim is a "cherry-picked" fact or a mischaracterization of "the opposition," and instead lays out "THE FACTS" this way:
THE FACTS: Clinton, who famously finger-wagged a denial on national television about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky and was subsequently impeached in the House on a perjury charge, has had his own uncomfortable moments over telling the truth. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," Clinton told television viewers. Later, after he was forced to testify to a grand jury, Clinton said his statements were "legally accurate" but also allowed that he "misled people, including even my wife."
That's the entirety of the AP's fact check of that Clinton statement: Clinton accurately quotes a Romney pollster, and AP responds by dredging up the Monica Lewinsky affair.
In his speech at the Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney suggested that Barack Obama was unqualified to be president because he didn't have enough experience working in a business. In reporting this claim, media outlets have not noted that Romney selected a vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who has worked almost exclusively in the public sector.
Two recent falsehoods from the Mitt Romney campaign have received media attention: the false claim that President Obama removed the work requirement from welfare, and the false claim that the health care reform bill "cuts" $716 billion from Medicare. While many mainstream media outlets debunked the false claims in much of their coverage, several -- particularly Fox News and The Wall Street Journal -- repeatedly failed to debunk the falsehoods.
In his speech to the Republican National Convention last night, New Jersey governor Chris Christie declared that would-be president Mitt Romney will share "hard truths" with the nation on debt and the economy. "Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth and create good paying private sector jobs again in America. Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to end the torrent of debt that is compromising our future and burying our economy," said Christie.
Christie's praise for Romney was reported by a number of media outlets. Less remarked upon was the fact that Christie's promise of economic "hard truths" from Romney is undercut by the Romney campaign's stated and steadfast refusal to release details of their economic proposals.
Christie's remarks were quoted by the Associated Press as part of his "broad indictment of Democrats." The Los Angeles Times reported: "After detailing his own accomplishments for some time, Christie pivoted to Romney, saying he would 'tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on the path to growth.'" CBS News noted simply that Christie "called on Americans to face the nation's 'hard truths' this November, and embrace a 'new era of truth-telling' when deciding the country's political future."
On Wednesday, scientists announced that melting over the Greenland ice sheet has already "shattered the seasonal record" set in 2010, with four weeks left before the end of the melting season. Scientists say this record melting is driven by rising Arctic temperatures and could have serious consequences for the environment and coastal communities. But the major media outlets are once again failing to report on clear evidence that our climate is changing.
Professor Marco Tedesco, whose research was sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation, examined satellite data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center and found that Greenland has "experienced extreme melting in nearly every region" this year. He concluded: "With more yet to come in August, this year's overall melting will fall way above the old records. That's a goliath year - the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979."
Tedesco looked at the extent and duration of melting to determine the "cumulative melting index," which measures the "strength" of the melting season. The following chart illustrates that by early August, Greenland's melting index was already higher than at any time in the past 30 years:
Tedesco attributed his findings to rising temperatures in the Arctic, noting that accelerated melting and ice sheet thinning are consistent with models of the effects of climate change. But, he added, "the difference is how quickly this seems to be happening."
Scientists say that human-induced climate change made this year's record heat more likely, and project that extreme heat will become more common in the United States. But a Media Matters analysis of media coverage of record-breaking heat in July finds that major television outlets rarely made the connection between heat waves and a changing climate.
A Media Matters analysis of wildfire coverage in July finds that nearly 14 percent of articles and segments mentioned climate change -- over four times more than in previous months.
While numerous factors determine the frequency, severity and cost of wildfires, scientific research indicates that human-induced climate change increases fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions. Seven of nine fire experts contacted by Media Matters agreed journalists should explain the relationship between climate change and wildfires. But an analysis of recent coverage suggests mainstream media outlets are not up to the task -- only 3 percent of news reports on wildfires in the West mentioned climate change.
Following the announced bankruptcy of Abound Solar, which borrowed about $70 million against a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, the Associated Press is giving oxygen to attacks from Republicans saying the clean energy program shows the Obama administration "wasting taxpayer dollars." While passing along GOP talking points, AP forgot to report these key facts:
1. Abound Solar was one of the few higher-risk loan guarantees. Over 87 percent of the funds for the Department of Energy's 1705 loan guarantee program went to low-risk power generation projects, which are required to secure contracts with power purchasers before receiving a loan guarantee, virtually eliminating the risk of default. Like Solyndra, Abound Solar built solar panels and struggled to compete with Chinese manufacturers.
2. Congress set aside $2.47 billion to cover defaults. For a loan guarantee, the DOE is only on the hook if the company defaults on the loan, and the DOE is not able to recover the funds during the bankruptcy process. Even if all of the higher-risk (non-generation) projects defaulted on the full amount of their loan guarantees and "no assets were to be recovered, the DOE would still have $446 million remaining to cover additional project losses," according to a Bloomberg Government analysis. Here is a chart comparing the amount that Congress budgeted for the 1705 program versus the current losses:
3. Four Indiana Republicans pressed the Energy Department to support Abound. In addition to the four Indiana Republican Congressmen who urged DOE to grant the loan guarantee to Abound, Mitch Daniels supported a tax credit for the company and two major Republican donors were Abound investors.
Carbon dioxide emissions are not just warming up our atmosphere, they're also changing the chemistry of our oceans. This phenomenon is known as ocean acidification, or sometimes as global warming's "evil twin" or the "osteoporosis of the sea." Scientists have warned that it poses a serious threat to ocean life. Yet major American
news outlets covered the Kardashians over 40 times more often than ocean acidification over the past year and a half.
Rising carbon dioxide emissions have caused the oceans to become around 30 percent more acidic since the Industrial Revolution, and if we do not lower the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the ocean surface could be up to 150 percent more acidic by 2100. At that level, the shells of some plankton would dissolve, large parts of the ocean would become inhospitable to coral reef growth, and the rapidity of the change could threaten much of the marine food web. According to the National Research Council, the chemical changes are taking place "at an unprecedented rate and magnitude" and are "practically irreversible on a time scale of centuries."
Despite a boom of recent scientific research documenting this threat, there has been a blackout on the topic at most media outlets. Since the end of 2010, ABC, NBC, and Fox News have completely ignored ocean acidification, and the Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, and CBS have barely mentioned it at all.
Natural gas can help the U.S. transition away from reliance on coal in the near-term if it is produced responsibly. But conservative media have dismissed the risks involved with the rapid spread of natural gas extraction to push for deregulation, attack the Obama administration, and ignore the need for a comprehensive energy policy to transition to renewable energy.