In a November 7 Newsweek column, George Will claimed that global warming "has not increased" for 11 years and suggested that the world may be cooling in order to attack an October 31 Newsweek profile of former Vice President Al Gore. Scientists and statisticians reject Will's claim that recent temperatures are evidence that there is no global warming as they have rejected many of Will's previous claims about global warming.
The New York Times has a good article spelling out the obvious problems with Newsweek's decision to team up with the American Petroleum Institute for a forum titled "Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?"
Here's the situation in a nutshell: API is paying Newsweek, in exchange for which API president Jack Gerard gets to be the featured participant in a Newsweek forum moderated by Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman. Newsweek says there's nothing wrong with the arrangement, because it is "transparent":
"There's absolutely no conflict of interest, because they're not driving our editorial" content, [Newsweek director of external relations Mark] Block said. "These events are transparent. They're on the record. They're inclusive of media. They're inclusive of people that might disagree. There's no concern of appearance of impropriety because it's an open and transparent process."
That does not, strictly speaking, appear to be true. Take a look at a "V.I.P. Invitation" email Newsweek External Relations Manager Jennifer Slattery sent out about the forum:
The panel discussion will be moderated Howard Fineman, Newsweek National-Affairs Columnist and Senior Washington Correspondent with special guest panelist Jack Gerard, President & Chief Executive Officer of American Petroleum Institute (API). Newsweek is also honored to have forum invitations currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
No mention of the fact that API paid for Gerard's participation in the event. So much for "an open and transparent process."
[J]ournalism and ethics experts decried the arrangement.
"You're selling access," said Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. "Newsweek is using its reputation as a great news organization to convene these officeholders to talk about public policy. Then it's renting out a space at the table for one of its customers who would not be at the table if not for giving money to Newsweek."
John Watson, associate professor of communication law and journalism ethics at American University in Washington, agreed.
"You're enticing them to buy these ads to get this thing of value," Watson said.
Newsweek's claims that API's funding doesn't influence its editorial decisions are undermined by the fact that the forum features Gerard -- but doesn't include any representatives of environmental organizations. And, it seems, Newsweek doesn't have any pans to address that exclusion:
Asked whether Newsweek planned to invite a representative from an environmental group to the upcoming event, to balance Gerard's appearance, Block said the magazine "would definitely consider that opportunity," if there were a high-profile environmentalist who might be appropriate. But he said that because members of Congress would likely also participate, time constraints might dictate against it.
Yeah, I bet they might.
And I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Newsweek happily publishes global warming deniers like George Will. And its probably just another coincidence that Will's column relies on the work of the American Enterprise Institute, which gets funding from the likes of Exxon Mobil and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Trust.
That's Charles Koch as in Koch Industries, which was once required to pay "the largest civil fine ever imposed on a company under any federal environmental law to resolve claims related to more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states." Or perhaps you know Koch Industries better as the company that got rich in part by stealing oil from Indian reservations and federal lands -- that is, from U.S. Taxpayers. Then they used the money they stole from taxpayers -- that is, from you -- to fund right-wing think-tanks that advocate policies that would help people like Charles Koch at the expense of, well, you. (Koch Industries agreed to pay $25 million in penalties for stealing all that oil.)
Anyway, I'm sure that's all just coincidence.
Oh, and it's probably also a coincidence that Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post Company, and that the Post got caught earlier this year trying to sell off access to its reporters to corporate sponsors.
In Sunday's Washington Post, Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas reviewed Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes. After some throat-clearing, Thomas begins the meat of his review with a refreshing confession rarely seen from mainstream media figures:
It is possible to sympathize with Clinton. Today, when the mainstream media seems so weakened, we forget how powerful -- and arrogant -- the New York Times and The Washington Post, along with the networks and news magazines, seemed to be in the early and mid-1990s. They were part of a giant scandal machine that dominated official Washington in the first few years after the Cold War. The endless string of special prosecutors and the media's obsession with Whitewater seem excessive in retrospect. [Note: it seemed excessive to rational people even at the time; Gene Lyons wrote a whole book about it 15 years ago.]
Clinton was not wrong to be frustrated or to believe that the single greatest mistake of his administration (against the advice of the first lady) was to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Whitewater. He also had the canny insight that Whitewater served as a proxy for what really interested reporters: those rumors of "bimbo eruptions" floated by political enemies and less-than-reliable state troopers.
But just when you think that finally (and belatedly) a major journalist may grasp the simple concept that the 'Clinton scandals' were media scandals, not political scandals, Thomas shows that he still just wants to hear about the "bimbo eruptions":
Given all that, how could Clinton have been so foolish as to take up with a White House intern just as he was turning back the tide of Gingrichism in the fall of 1995? The reader longs for some insight, some Shakespearean narrative to help explain Clinton's self-destructive recklessness. But Branch does not deliver; he merely reports that Clinton said he "just cracked." Branch seems almost too embarrassed to try to find out more.
And Thomas seems not to realize that not everything is a Shakespearean drama. Sometimes a dumb affair is just a dumb affair. Millions of people have them; they don't all yield the kind of fascinating morality play Thomas yearns for even 11 years later.
And that yearning makes up pretty much Thomas' entire review. He doesn't waste a word on health care, or on national security, or on welfare reform or the 1994 crime bill or ... Well, much of anything. Thomas may finally realize the media's obsession with Whitewater was obsessive, but he remains fully obsessed with the "bimbo eruptions" that Whitewater was merely a "proxy for."
Salon's Joan Walsh nails it:
Jesus, take me now. We know way too much about the Lewinsky mess; we know not nearly enough about the collapse of health care reform, the compromises over Clinton's crime bill, the strategies of GOP leaders in those years, and yes, certainly, Haiti. Who really thinks we don't have enough insight into what Clinton thought and felt about the Lewinsky affair? What grownup journalist who lived through Whitewater, the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment, in the prosperous days before 9/11 and the Bush economic collapse, doesn't hate themselves in the cold light of (post-Bush) day?
Sadly, most of them don't. Many are reliving minor Clinton issues through the lens of Branch's book, at the neglect of the major ones, including my friend Chris Matthews on "Hardball."
From the July 10 edition of Newweek's "The Gaggle":
From the July 10 edition of the Fox Nation:
Referring to a question he asked at President Obama's press conference, on Morning Joe, Chuck Todd suggested Obama was being inconsistent in not asking the American people for sacrifice -- during a recession, with millions recently unemployed -- after having criticized President Bush for failing to ask for sacrifice following 9-11.
Newsweek reported that Sen. John McCain is among the Republican "Party luminaries" who "have stumped" for Sen. Saxby Chambliss, but did not mention that McCain reportedly criticized as "worse than disgraceful" and "reprehensible" a campaign ad Chambliss used during his 2002 race against then-Sen. Max Cleland.
In a Newsweek article headlined "Is Obama the Antichrist?" senior editor Lisa Miller treated as newsworthy purported debate among some "conservative Christians" over whether President-elect Barack Obama is "the Antichrist." In doing so, she gave credibility to the views of RaptureReady.com editor and founder Todd Strandberg, who has, among other things, smeared gays and lesbians, Islam, progressives, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Newsweek's Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe repeated the assertion previously made by Newsweek colleague Jon Meacham that the country "remains right of center." Thomas and Wolffe cited as evidence exit polling that showed more respondents identifying themselves as "conservative" than as "liberal." But political scientists dispute the reliability of voters' identification with political ideologies, and the former editor of The Washington Times' editorial page asserted "the only problem" with conservatives claiming America is a "center-right" country is that "[i]t isn't true. Or at least, not anymore."
In reporting on whether Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama would accept public funding in a general presidential election, The New York Times and Newsweek did not mention that McCain faces possible fines and jail time for breaking spending limits imposed on candidates participating in the public financing system during the primary.
Republican strategist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove appeared on Fox News' America's Election HQ and Hannity & Colmes to discuss the presidential race, but none of the hosts -- Bill Hemmer, Sean Hannity, or Alan Colmes -- asked Rove whether he was "informally advising" Sen. John McCain's campaign, as a Politico article citing "[a] top McCain adviser" reported, and none noted that Rove has reportedly confirmed donating to McCain's campaign.
In a Newsweek cover story, assistant managing editor Evan Thomas wrote of Sen. John McCain: "[W]hen some of his advisers tried to get him to soften his stances on immigration and Iraq, he snapped, 'Don't try to change my mind.' ... It was a characteristically principled stand." In fact, McCain has reversed himself on a key immigration issue.
Referencing an interview former President Bill Clinton gave on PBS' The Charlie Rose Show, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter wrote, "During a December taping with PBS's Charlie Rose, a frustrated Clinton called [Sen. Barack] Obama 'a roll of the dice,' as aides tried to end the interview." However, Alter omitted Rose's on-air comments in which he indicated why Clinton's aides wanted to "end the interview."
In its "Conventional Wisdom" feature, Newsweek mischaracterized a quote by President Clinton to claim that he "call[ed] [Sen. Barack] Obama's appeal a 'fairy tale' " in comments Clinton made on January 7. In his comments -- which have also been mischaracterized by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham to claim that "Bill Clinton appeared to dismiss Obama's campaign as 'the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen' " -- Clinton was referring, not to Obama or his campaign, but to the senator's statements about his position on the Iraq war.
Several media outlets have reported on the latest ad released by Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign attacking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton over her support for an earmark funding a Woodstock Festival museum, but these outlets have not noted that McCain skipped the vote on removing the earmark.