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.
As anti-immigrant legislation has flooded state houses from coast to coast over the past two years -- culminating most notably with the Supreme Court's review of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 -- the nation's print media have given voice to the anti-immigrant special interest groups cheerleading (and in some cases orchestrating) these initiatives. Many of these groups have ties to white nationalist organizations and racists, and at least one has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These extremist ties have not prevented the nation's most respected newspapers, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters, from citing the institutions as authorities on the immigration debate.
In fact, a Media Matters analysis of news coverage since SB 1070's introduction in January 2010 has discovered that the nation's top five newspapers (New York Times, L.A. Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post), the Associated Press, and Reuters have cited these groups over 250 times. Over that period, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, among other states, have introduced strict immigration bills that -- by their introduction alone -- have been met with a measure of success.
If print media plays a part in shaping public opinion, isn't it fair to ask whether the normalization of these extremist groups in the pages of America's daily papers has advantaged the ability of anti-immigrant measures to reach fruition?
For details on the methodology and other information in the Media Matters report, click here.
Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, was introduced in January 2010. Since then, in their coverage of immigration issues America's top five newspapers and the Associated Press and Reuters newswires have cited anti-immigrant organizations with ties to white supremacists and racists -- including one that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- over 250 times.
An Associated Press article about President Obama speaking at a June 14 fundraiser in New York omitted key context to portray Obama as having said that the celebrities in attendance are the "ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes." In fact, Obama said that the attendees and "the American people" are the "tie-breaker" and the "ultimate arbiter" of the country's direction.
Right-wing blogs and Fox News ran wild with the AP's distortion of Obama's comments.
From the AP article:
President Barack Obama soaked in the support, and the campaign cash, of Manhattan's elite entertainers Thursday as his re-election team sought to fill its fundraising coffers.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama made a rare joint fundraising appearance when they visited the home of actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. The intimate dinner banked about $2 million, with 50 people paying $40,000 each.
The dinner was the Obama campaign's latest attempt to bank on celebrities for fundraising help in countering the growing donor enthusiasm from Republicans supporting Mitt Romney's presidential bid.
Speaking in a dimly lighted, art-filled room, Obama told supporters they would play a critical role in an election that would determine a vision for the nation's future.
"You're the tie-breaker," he said. "You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes."
Among the celebrities on hand to hear Obama's remarks were Oscar winner Meryl Streep, fashion designer Michael Kors and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who moderated a private question-and-answer session between the president and the guests. Broderick, who was starring in a Broadway musical, was absent. [emphasis added]
From the White House website's transcript of the event:
In some ways, this election is more important than 2008 -- because in 2008, as much as I disagreed with Mr. McCain, he believed in climate change. He believed in campaign finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. And now what we have is a Republican nominee and a Republican Party that has moved fundamentally away from what used to be a bipartisan consensus about how you build an economy; that has said our entire agenda is based on cutting taxes even more for people who don't need them and weren't asking for them; slashing our commitment to things like education or science or infrastructure or a basic social safety net for seniors and the disabled and the infirm; that wants to gut regulations for polluters or those who are taking advantage of consumers.
So they've got a very specific theory about how you grow the economy. It's not very different from the one that actually got us into this mess in the first place. And what we're going to have to do is to present very clearly to the American people that choice. Because ultimately you guys and the American people, you're the tie-breaker. You're the ultimate arbiter of which direction this country goes in. Do we go in a direction where we're all in this together and we share in prosperity, or do we believe that everybody is on their own and we'll see how it plays out? [emphasis added]
Media have overwhelmingly repeated claims by Republican politicians and corporations that government policies are "job killers" without citing any evidence for this claim according to a new study. And today's news reporting demonstrates the study's point.
Occidental College professor Peter Dreier and University of Northern Iowa professor Christopher Martin found media stories in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Associated Press with the phrase "job killer" have spiked since President Obama took office and that since 1984, "in 91.6% of the stories alleging that a government policy was or would be a 'job killer,' the media failed to cite any evidence for this claim or to quote an authoritative source with any evidence for this claim."
Dreier and Martin pointed out that "[w]ith little or no fact checking of 'job killer' allegations, Americans have no way to know if there is any evidence for these claims."
The study also found that the majority of these stories involved allegations by Republicans or business spokespersons, and that the phrase was used most often to attack tax policies, health care reform, and policies to protect the environment, workers, or consumers.
The study findings are borne out by the facts. A study from NYU's Institute for Policy Integrity found that usage of the phrase "job-killing regulation" in newspapers has increased 17,550% between 2007 and 2011. And media figures have indeed thrown around the phrase "job killers" or similar terms to attack progressive government policies. Furthermore, media figures have repeatedly launched misleading attacks on Obama's jobs record.
The Associated Press published an article implying that Democrats are not focused on jobs and the economy, and are instead pandering to women by pushing a measure to protect women from workplace discrimination. In contrast, AP reported that the Republican agenda focuses on job creation.
The article, written by Laurie Kellman, reported on Senate Republicans' efforts to successfully block a law that would have required equal pay for women. The piece included a passage that strongly suggests that Democrats are not focused on jobs, while portraying concerns over fair pay to be hollow:
The vote was the latest effort by Democrats to protect their lead among critical women voters this presidential and congressional election year. Republicans are focusing on the No. 1 concern for all voters: jobs and the economy.
In suggesting that Democrats are not focused on jobs and the economy, AP ignores President Obama's repeated calls for Congress to pass a jobs bill. Friday, when the Labor Department reported that jobs growth slowed during May, the president again called on Congress to "get to work" and pass a jobs bill that economists say could create 2 million jobs.
Moreover, Kellman didn't bother to provide any evidence that Republicans were "focusing on ... jobs and the economy." Just last week, the GOP staged a vote on a bill that would have banned sex-selective abortions. That vote is particularly noteworthy when considering that gender-based abortion is not a problem in the United States - gender rates at birth in the United States are in line with what public health experts say is normal, and more than 90 percent of all abortions happen before gender can be determined.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analyzed the bill and made no mention that it would create any jobs.
In May, AP's Charles Babington explored the question of whether Republicans were engaged in economic sabotage in order to damage a sitting president. Now AP has given Republicans an out, portraying the GOP as focused on economic growth - despite all evidence to the contrary - and increasing the likelihood that voters will not get a national conversation about GOP sabotage.
UPDATE: Associated Press has since updated the article, now reporting:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a Democratic bill calling for equal pay in the workplace. But President Barack Obama and his congressional allies aren't finished appealing to women on the No. 1 concern for all voters: the cash in their wallets on the heels of recession.
Original AP article after the jump.
Mitt Romney's remarks at Solyndra were full of falsehoods that went unchecked by many major media outlets. The media also largely failed to point out that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney invested in several companies that subsequently went bankrupt or defaulted on state loans.
Both mainstream and conservative media outlets have responded to the recent spike in gasoline prices by circulating talking points rooted in politics rather than facts. As a whole, these claims reflect the misconception, perpetuated by the news media, that changes in U.S. energy policy are a major driver of oil and gasoline prices.
A Media Matters analysis shows that as a whole, news coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline between August 1 and December 31 favored pipeline proponents. Although the project would create few long-term employment opportunities, the pipeline was primarily portrayed as a jobs issue. Pro-pipeline voices were quoted more frequently than those opposed, and dubious industry estimates of job creation were uncritically repeated 5 times more often than they were questioned. Meanwhile, concerns about the State Department's review process and potential environmental consequences were often overlooked, particularly by television outlets.
In a December 7 Associated Press article, David Bauder cited Media Matters research to highlight the "close ties between the media and political world during this campaign season." From the AP article:
Political consultant Dick Morris recently disclosed on Fox News Channel that some of the Republican presidential candidates that he talks about on the air have paid for advertisements in a newsletter he sends out to subscribers.
Columnist and ABC commentator George Will's wife works for Rick Perry. Fox host Greta Van Susteren's husband advised Herman Cain. NPR's Michele Norris left as host of "All Things Considered" in October because her husband began working for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
Such entanglements are laying bare the close ties between the media and political world during this campaign season while raising familiar questions: How much should consumers be clued in to preserve the sense that news organizations are acting independently? And what should journalists do to avoid the perception of a conflict?
Morris' comments during Sean Hannity's prime-time program came a few hours after The Associated Press questioned him and Fox programming executive Bill Shine about the ads. Though he acknowledged the ads, Morris did not address questions from the AP about their propriety, in light of his commentator role, and did not immediately respond to requests for comment. And Shine declined requests for an interview about the topic.
The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America, which subscribes to the newsletter, says it saw at least seven ads from July through October that stated they were paid for by Cain's campaign.
After incessant coverage of the failed solar panel maker Solyndra, major TV and print news outlets are now ignoring a report concluding that "the focus on Solyndra is not proportional to its impact." The Bloomberg Government analysis of the Department of Energy's 1705 loan guarantee program found that 87 percent of the portfolio is low-risk and that even if all 10 of the higher risk projects defaulted, we'd still have nearly half a billion dollars left in the fund set aside by Congress to cover losses.
Alison Williams - who previously served as a DOE analyst under both the Bush and Obama administrations - authored the report, which is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the loan guarantee program that assisted Solyndra. According to a Nexis search, not a single major newspaper or television news outlet has reported on the analysis, which was covered by The Hill and the Huffington Post.
The main takeaway from the report is that 87 percent of the value of all the 1705 loan guarantees (18 of the 28 projects) went to power generation projects, as opposed to manufacturing projects like Solyndra's factory. The DOE required generation projects to secure a buyer before receiving a loan guarantee -- ensuring stable revenue and significantly reducing the risk of the investment. In fact, Shayle Kann, a solar power market expert at GTM Research, has said that these projects have almost no risk of default.
Earlier today I asked whether American news outlets would do their due diligence in evaluating the content of the newly-released batch of "Climategate" emails hacked from the University of East Anglia two years ago. It didn't take long for our esteemed print outlets to disappoint.
Writing on the Washington Post's website, Juliet Eilperin quotes an email exchange that she said was about "whether the IPCC has accurately depicted the temperature rise in the lower atmosphere":
In one round of e-mails, researchers discuss whether the IPCC has accurately depicted the temperature rise in the lower atmosphere. An official from the U.K. Met Office, a scientific organization which analyzes the climate, writes to the Climate Research Unit's former director Phil Jones at one point, "Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary [...]"
Later, the official adds, "I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run."
Astoundingly, Eilperin does not tell readers that these email exchanges took place in February 2005 and were about the first draft of a chapter of the IPCC report released two years later. The emails depict the authors of the chapter hashing out what should be included -- exactly what you would expect this process to look like.
After providing comments on the draft, then-Met Office official Peter Thorne wrote: "I'm pretty sure we can reconcile these things relatively simply. However, I certainly would be unhappy to be associated with it if the current text remains through final draft - I'm absolutely positive it won't."
So were his concerns addressed in the final draft? If only we had reporters who asked these questions. For his part, The Hill's Ben Geman simply repeats what Eilperin reported, while admitting that he hasn't even "been able to view the newly released emails."