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.
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson opened his show Tuesday by concurring with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that homosexuality is an "ugly behavior" and accusing CNN's Piers Morgan of "moral, intellectual bankruptcy" for broaching the subject in an interview with the leader Monday night.
From WHO-AM 1040 (emphasis added):
[playing clip of CNN interview]
PIERS MORGAN: Shouldn't freedom and individuality in all those things also extend to people who just happen to be gay? Who were born gay. They weren't made gay. Wouldn't it be great for the president of Iran to say, 'you know something, everyone's entitled to be whatever sexuality they are born to be.' That would be a great symbol of freedom.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: Do you really believe that someone is born homosexual?
MORGAN: Yes. I absolutely believe that. Yes, I do.
AHMADINEJAD: I'm sorry, let me ask you this. Do you believe that anyone is given birth to through homosexuality? Homosexuality ceases procreation. Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly and others do not accept your behavior, they are denying your freedom? Who says that? Who says that?
Perhaps in a country, they wish to legitimize stealing --
MORGAN: You are a father of three. You are a father of -- you have two sons and a daughter. What would you do if one of them was gay?
AHMADINEJAD: Ah, these things have different ways - the proper education must be given, proper -- the education system must be revamped, the political system must be revamped, and these must be also reformed and revamped along the way. But if you - if a group - recognizes an ugly behavior or ugly deed as legitimate, you must not expect other countries or other groups to give it the same recognition.
[end CNN clip]
JAN MICKELSON: Gee, we're still struggling with those same issues in almost exactly the same terms, but I think it is absolutely fascinating that a moment of international tension -- where literally nuclear exchanges could occur -- incendiary comments about the legitimacy of countries and the roots of the legitimacy of Israel have been challenged and they're going to be eliminated. What does CNN ask? 'Hey, what if your kids are gay?' That is a demonstration of the absolute moral, intellectual bankruptcy of Western, mainstream media and that particular journalist -- how values can be so topsy-turvy.
And the weird thing is, you know, on that exchange I've got to go with that Iranian fellow. Did I ever think I would be the position to actually agree with the potential-serial killing, nuclear-crazed [inaudible]. Talk about ironies. Anyway. Wow.
This was not Mickelson's first foray into anti-gay commentary. He has referred to the LGBT community as a "religious cult," and suggested that AIDS is God's "invention" to "punish" the "stupid behavior" of homosexuality, which forced Clear Channel Communications (which owns the 50kW WHO-AM 1040) to issue an on-air statement criticizing Mickelson.
Equality for the LGBT community is at the forefront of political discourse in Iowa, where conservatives are waging a campaign to oust Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who "was among seven Iowa justices who voted unanimously in a 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa."
Nevada media outlets failed to disclose the Big Oil interests behind a group offering cheap gas in the state this week to mislead voters about Obama's energy policies, including the false claim that the administration's energy policies are responsible for high gas prices. The bizarre stunts -- involving a walking, talking, anthropomorphic gas can -- were funded by groups largely financed by the Koch brothers, major conservative political donors who have significant oil interests. These groups are pushing policies that will benefit the Koch empire, not American consumers.
From the Associated Press:
Dozens of people lined up at a Reno gas station Tuesday to buy gasoline for $1.84 a gallon as part of a political event.
The cheap gas was offered by the Gas Can Man, a group funded by a [PAC called] Morning in America, focusing on energy policy. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity also funded the event.
A spokesman for the Gas Can Man told KOLO-TV that the event was supposed to remind voters that gas prices are high.
Spokesman Michael Findlay says that gas was $1.84 a gallon in the month of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
The Las Vegas Sun noted that as "people filled up their tanks, they stood in the shadow of AFP's campaign bus emblazoned with the slogan: Obama's Failing Agenda. One man registered voters." The paper quoted an Americans for Prosperity representative claiming the stunt was an exercise in "citizen education":
For the organizers of the event, the cheap gas offering wasn't a handout for those in need.
"It's citizen education," said Nick Vander Poel, of Americans for Prosperity. "This is issue awareness. We're educating them on the issues."
But the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun, and local television stations failed to disclose in their reports that the Gas Can Man and the cheap gas-campaign dubbed the "Million Can March" is funded by oil industry barons pushing policies that, if enacted, would line their own pockets but do nothing to lower the price of gas (the Sun disclosed the Koch ties, but neglected to mention their role in the oil industry).
Two days after the widespread publication of Mitt Romney's controversial declaration that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on government," the largest newspaper in Nevada, a swing state in the 2012 election the 2012, has thus far failed to cover the story. Additionally, on September 18, the "Swing States Project" at the Columbia Journalism Review noted that another important swing state publication -- New Hampshire's Union Leader -- had also failed to cover the Romney comments.
A story published yesterday by the Columbia Journalism Review pointed out that the New Hampshire Union Leader -- New Hampshire's largest newspaper by circulation according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations -- had failed to cover Mitt Romney's comments that 47 percent of Americans will support Obama "no matter what" and that they are "dependent upon government."
While the Union Leader still has not published a news story on the topic, it did publish an editorial defending Romney's comments explaining that it was obviously a "statement of campaign strategy, not policy." From the editorial:
Naturally, the media portray this as Romney not caring about half the country. Absurd. It was a statement of campaign strategy, not policy, and every single national political reporter knows that.
In contrast to the Union Leader's limited attention to the issue, the Review-Journal -- Nevada's largest newspaper by circulation -- has not published anything on the subject at all, according to a Media Matters search of Nexis records and the Review-Journal website. In fact, despite not mentioning the comments once in its news or opinion sections, the Review-Journal has published two unrelated stories on Mitt Romney since Monday -- including a story discussing a private fundraiser Romney was planning on having in Las Vegas this Friday.
While 41 swing state newspapers made the Romney comments a front page story, the Review-Journal has mentioned it only once in an online-only blog post by opinion columnist and former publisher, Sherman Frederick, who, unsurprisingly, defended Romney for his "admirable truth-telling." Unfortunately, it seems that similar to the Union Leader, over 200,000 print subscribers of the Review-Journal can't count on their hometown paper to report a story with national implications if it doesn't look good for its preferred candidate.
The Charlotte Observer's reprint of an article on alleged dead registered voters in North Carolina omitted critical information about an activist group pushing voter fraud mythology that were included in the original story, including its ties to a national voter suppression organization.
The paper, which cut its full-time statehouse reporting staff earlier this year, relied on an article published a week earlier in Raleigh's News & Observer to inform its readers on the efforts of the Voter Integrity Project of NC (VIP-NC) to challenge the status of thousands of North Carolina voters. The Charlotte Observer did not print the Raleigh report in full, however, and omitted significant details about the group's faulty tactics and failed to provide broader context about the issue of voter fraud. On top of this, both papers have neglected to identify the connection between VIP-NC and True the Vote, a national Tea Party-affiliated organization formed to fear-monger about voter fraud.
Following are examples of News & Observer's reporting that The Charlotte Observer left out:
"The Voter Integrity Project has not brought forth any information to show that someone is voting in the name of another, and I think citizens of North Carolina need to be aware of that."
They began with last names, then a volunteer would look for potential matches - for example considering an "Elizabeth" and a "Liz" with the same age and address to be a match.
"It took intuition," DeLancy said. "We trained a lot of volunteers."
DeLancy said he's confident that at least 90 percent of the names he delivered should be removed from the rolls.
The nonprofit group used "fuzzy matching," Degraffenreid said. The death data from the Department of Health and Human Services includes age but not a date of birth, which is essential in making matches, she said.
"The Voter Integrity Project doesn't have really the necessary data to make a determination that a voter is deceased," Degraffenreid said.
Even a full match doesn't mean a registered voter has died. Degraffenreid recalled removing a man who matched on first, middle and last names, date of birth and county of residence who turned out to be a different voter. He showed up to the polls and voted a provisional ballot when he was told he had been removed, she said.
Meanwhile, cases of fraud remain rare. In 2009, the board referred 29 cases of double voting to county district attorneys, according to a board report. Since 2000, the board has referred one case of voter impersonation, the report states.
Allegations by a non-profit group that there are 30,000 dead people registered to vote in North Carolina have received play in local and national media (including Fox News) over the last week -- what isn't being reported, however, is the group's history of making false allegations of voter fraud or the larger pattern of finding no merit to "dead voter" accusations.
The group, led by recently retired Air Force officer and Tea Party darling Jay DeLancy, calls itself the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina (VIP-NC). In yet another Fox News attempt to fear-monger about post-mortem voter fraud, DeLancy was invited to appear on the September 5th edition of Fox & Friends to hype his group's findings. During the interview, he admitted that so far, his group has only found a handful of allegedly deceased individuals actually voting, and that they're not ready to release an exact number on their findings. To put that tentative "handful" in context, over 2.5 million votes were cast in the 2010 general election in North Carolina.
Neither the hosts of Fox & Friends nor the myriad straight news sources reporting on the '30,000 dead voter' claims mentioned the history of these types of allegations collapsing or the fact that voter fraud is extremely rare. In fact, Fox News has tried to gin up fears about dead people voting before. An hour-long special that aired in April, Fox News Reporting: Stealing Your Vote, reported on an already-debunked claim that 953 ballots were cast by "dead" voters in South Carolina. However, an investigation by the state's Election Commission found no evidence of fraud.
Nor did Fox mention in this week's segment that DeLancy's project has failed previous attempts to expose voter fraud in the state. Earlier this year, the group submitted the names of over 500 registered voters they claimed were non-citizens, alleging that half of those may have actually voted illegally or committed some other related crime. A subsequent investigation flagged only 11 registrants for closer inspection.* From the Raleigh News & Observer:
Earlier this summer, the organization sued to have 528 Wake County residents it claimed were not U.S. citizens removed from the voter registration. The county elections board investigated the complaint and removed 11 names from its registry and referred the names to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Cherie Poucher, director of the Wake County Board of Elections.
As fact-checkers and media figures continue to slam the Fox News-turned-GOP convention slogan "We Built It," more business owners have come out of the woodwork to claim that they built their own businesses -- seemingly without the help of government. The Toledo Blade's convention coverage followed suit by dedicating several paragraphs to the latest small business owner to claim he "built it," despite evidence to the contrary.
Small business owner Steve Cohen -- a Republican Party adviser on small business issues since 2011 and the president of Screen Machines Industries in Etna, Ohio -- was given a speaking spot at the convention to discuss his business and how he "did build [his] company."
From the Toledo Blade:
Other speakers included Steve Cohen, president of Screen Machine Industries, a family-owned manufacturer of construction and mining equipment in Etna, Ohio, who listed problems he said can be helped or hurt by government, such as patent theft, tariffs, and unfair trade practices, regulations, and taxes.
"In addition, our international competitors do not have to face the upcoming costs associated with funding a multibillion-dollar health-care plan, overreaching emission standards, and the unnecessary war on coal. These factors create a tremendous disadvantage in the global market place, he said.
"And yes, we did build this company," Mr. Cohen said, using the line used by almost every speaker at the podium in the convention.
The problem with the Blade's presentation of Cohen's comments is that Cohen didn't, in fact, "build it" on his own. Cohen's company has received more than $2 million in federal contracts, including $220,000 in funds from Obama's stimulus program.
Given the continued distortion of Obama's comments for political advantage and the prominence of business owners who have supposedly "built it" on their own -- when in fact they have received millions in government funds -- one would expect the Blade to provide honest context for the public comments of political partisans.
This week, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review attacked information sessions set up by non-profit organizations to help undocumented youth navigate President Obama's deferred action plan while avoiding scammers. The Tribune-Review, relying almost entirely on a single article from The Hill, tried to minimize the importance of these sessions by framing the issue as partisan, strictly because some Democrats are participating. However, these sessions are a helpful and necessary tool for undocumented youth and their families to ensure that those eligible are taking advantage of the deferred action properly and avoiding scammers -- all at no cost to taxpayers.
From the Tribune-Review:
"Outreach" programs are being organized to help illegals "navigate applications," understand fees and avoid rip-offs, The Hill newspaper reports. This, after Mr. Obama sidestepped Congress and ordered that "qualified" illegals brought into the U.S. as children could remain here -- temporarily.
But if these are, in fact, talented, achievement-oriented people, then they shouldn't need the Democratic Party's "help" filling out immigration forms.
And how much is this "reach-out" going to reach into taxpayers' pockets?
Despite the Tribune-Review's assertion that the outreach programs are unnecessary because qualified undocumented youth "are, in fact, talented achievement-oriented people," these programs are an essential tool for immigrant communities to receive proper information about their rights under deferred action. Instead of providing information about the sessions, the editorial mocks those eligible, some of whom are potentially still in their early teens.
The New Hampshire Union Leader's editorial board attacked the new Medicaid expansion provisions in the Affordable Care Act and instead proposed a block granting scheme, but experts say block granting Medicaid would be detrimental to the most vulnerable Americans and decrease the quality of health care.
An editorial in the Toledo Blade has highlighted the role of Fox News in helping Mitt Romney mischaracterize an effort by the Obama campaign to restore early voting to all Ohio voters.
Fox has distorted the efforts of the Obama campaign effort to extend early voting in Ohio, with anchor Bill Hemmer saying the lawsuit aims to "limit military voters' early voting time" and reporter Shannon Bream saying the purpose of the suit is "to keep members of the military from having extra time to cast their ballots." The Romney campaign has also pushed the distortion.
The editorial, titled "Campaign distortion," argued that the notion of any politician attempting to curtail the voting rights of the military is "absurd," and accused the Romney campaign "and his friends at Fox News" of "peddling that canard" in an attempt to sway Ohio voters. From the editorial:
The notion that President Obama -- or any other rational politician -- would seek to curtail the right to vote of servicemen and women is absurd. Yet Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is peddling that canard in an attempt to win votes in this critical battleground state. Ohio voters surely are too savvy to fall for such nonsense.
The Obama campaign sued Ohio to keep the early-voting ban from taking effect. The lawsuit says it's unconstitutional to extend voting opportunities for one class of voters -- the military -- but not others. According to the suit, the purpose of legal action is "to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day," military and nonmilitary alike.
But that didn't stop Mr. Romney -- and his friends at Fox News -- from claiming that the suit was intended to disfranchise the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who defend the liberties -- such as voting -- that other Americans enjoy. The nonpartisan fact-checking organization Politifact rated that claim "false."
After the election in 2004, it was discovered that thousands of voters had been effectively disenfranchised due to long lines and faulty machinery, necessitating the expansion of early voting in the state. More than 1.7 million Ohioans voted early in the 2008 presidential election. Ohio however has ended early voting the weekend prior to Election Day to all except members of the military and their families and voters overseas. The Obama campaign initiated a lawsuit to restore early voting to all Ohioans.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board attacked the "Democratic Senate" for giving "tax breaks for pet businesses," including green energy producers. However, many Republicans support giving the wind industry the type of economic certainty that the oil industry has enjoyed for decades -- a position the Review-Journal has previously defended.
With facts and statistics staring down the New York Post's attempted defenses of the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk agenda, the Post has been forced to resort to purely emotional appeals in their attempt to maintain public support for the policy.
Over the past few months, the New York Post has published several news pieces dedicated to interrogating the friends and family members of recent New York City shooting victims. Each story features someone emotionally close to the case speculating about whether ramping up the New York Police Department's controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy could have saved their loved ones' lives. Meanwhile, the Post's editorial page has been littered with hyperbole and graphic imagery -- fear mongering designed to scare readers into believing that ending stop-and-frisk will result in "more blood in the streets."
Several recent interviews in the news section of the New York Post have followed the above theme. Given the unconditional support for stop-and-frisk expressed by the Post's editors over past months, it's difficult to view these stories as anything more than an effort to exploit the raw emotions of their subjects in order to push the paper's political objectives in a "straight news" format. One example, from the New York Post on July 19, was an interview with a mother whose teenage son was shot and killed in July:
The grieving mother of a 15-year-old student who was shot in the head and died last week told The Post police should stop and frisk every person on the streets in order to stem increasing gun violence.
"My son is gone because of an illegal gun on the street," said Natasha Christopher, whose eldest son, Akeal, died on his birthday.
"If they had frisked the person who killed my son, it would have been one less gun on the streets. I'm for it," she declared.
Over the past few months, the New York Post editorial page has defended the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy with myths and imbalanced coverage.
On Sunday, the Denver Post published an op-ed about climate change by Americans For Prosperity's Sean Paige, but did not disclose AFP's close ties to the Koch brothers -- fossil fuel magnates who benefit financially from convincing the public that our consumption of fossil fuels is a harmless indulgence with no ill effects. The companion counter-argument by children's author and astronomer Jeffrey Bennett tellingly noted "Despite any debate you may hear in politics or the media, there is no scientific doubt that global warming is tilting the odds the wrong way."
In his op-ed, Paige suggests that we are simply experiencing "natural" "climate fluctuation" and argues that the specter of "climate change" is "the ultimate all-purpose excuse" to evade responsibility for disaster or increase regulations.
Deriding Americans concerned about climate change is nothing new for AFP. Nor is it surprising, if one knows that AFP was founded and bankrolled by David and Charles Koch, whose Koch Industries is a major player in fossil fuel markets. The Denver Post's failure to explain what AFP is, which speaks to Paige's potential agenda and the trustworthiness of his claims, is a significant breach of the duties it owes to its readership.
Furthermore, in providing Paige and AFP such a prominent platform, the Post has contributed to an unfortunate national trend in failed media coverage of the wildfires in the West - ignoring or diminishing how climate change increases the risk of fire there. Paige's column dismisses the effects of climate change as a "cop-out," and completely ignores significant research indicating climate change has contributed to warmer and drier conditions. A study by the U.S. Global Change Research Program sums it up:
Wildfires in the United States are already increasing due to warming. In the West, there has been a nearly fourfold increase in large wildfires in recent decades, with greater fire frequency, longer fire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. This increase is strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt, which have caused drying of soils and vegetation.