When it comes to covering climate change, it's not just The Wall Street Journal's editorial section that is problematic in the Rupert Murdoch era -- a new study shows the paper's newsroom has misinformed readers on the issue, too.
A new joint study from researchers at Rutgers University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Oslo appearing in the journal Public Understanding of Science (PUS) found major differences between the climate change reporting of The Wall Street Journal and other major U.S. newspapers. The July 30 study, titled "Polarizing news? Representations of threat and efficacy in leading US newspapers' coverage of climate change," examined non-opinion-based climate change articles in The Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post from 2006 to 2011.
The study found some disturbing trends in The Wall Street Journal's news reporting on climate change, including that the Journal was less likely than the other newspapers to discuss the threats or impacts of climate change and more likely to frame climate action as ineffective or even harmful. The authors of the study concluded that, given the Journal's conservative readership, the negative nature of its climate reporting "could exacerbate ideological polarization on climate change."
Fox News Channel founder Rupert Murdoch purchased The Journal in 2007, so this flawed reporting largely happened on his watch.
Here's how The Journal differed from other major newspapers in its climate reporting:
The Journal was far less likely than the other newspapers to mention at least one impact of climate change on the environment, public health, national security, or the economy. The Journal only mentioned climate change impacts in 21.6 percent of its climate stories, far less frequently than The New York Times (40.3 percent), Washington Post (48.8 percent) and USA Today (58.2 percent). In particular, The Journal was far and away the least likely newspaper to mention the impacts of climate change on the environment and public health.
The Journal was also least likely to cover climate change as a threat -- particularly as a present-day threat. The study found that The Journal discussed present-day threats from climate change in only 12.7 percent of its articles, whereas The Times, Washington Post, and USA Today discussed climate threats in 28.3, 39.5, and 40.3 percent of their climate coverage, respectively. Recent Pew polling shows that Americans consider climate change less of a threat than people in many other countries do, a trend that may be exacerbated by The Journal's coverage.
The Journal was by far the most likely newspaper to discuss climate change actions, particularly government actions. The Journal mentioned at least one action that could be taken to address climate change in 93.3 percent of its coverage, and mentioned government actions in 81.3 percent of its stories. By contrast, the other newspapers discussed climate actions in 82.1-83.6 percent of their climate coverage, including government action in 60.9-66.4 percent of their climate stories.
But that's not actually a good thing, because The Journal tended to frame those actions as difficult or ineffective. The study found that The Journal included "positive efficacy" -- framing climate actions as manageable or effective -- in just 20.1 percent of its climate coverage. It included "negative efficacy" -- framing climate actions as unsuccessful or costly -- in 33.6 percent of its climate stories.
The New York Times was the only other newspaper to frame climate actions negatively more often than positively. The Times included "positive efficacy" in 16.8 percent of its climate coverage, and "negative efficacy" in 23.9 percent.
Finally, The Journal was the most likely newspaper to use "conflict" framing -- presenting the issue as "a conflict or power struggle between politicians or stakeholder groups (e.g. Democrats and Republicans battling over legislation, international disputes over climate policy, climate change as an election issue)." It did so in 53 percent of its climate coverage.
Conservative media are embroiled in a blame game over the rise of Donald Trump as a legitimate contender to be the 2016 Republican nominee, and while many on the right promoted his candidacy, Trump's greatest ally has been Fox News itself.
After Erick Erickson disinvited Donald Trump to his annual RedState Gathering over Trump's sexist attacks on Fox News anchor and debate moderator Megyn Kelly,The Wall Street Journal editorial board called out Erickson for helping legitimize Trump's candidacy in the first place. Erickson "trumpeted the businessman as a political tonic," the Journal wrote, noting how the conservative blogger is part of "a strain on the right that has put Trumpian bluster above political reality" and "helped to create Trumpism." And yet it's these conservative media pundits "who indulged him [that] now claim to be embarrassed."
Right-wing bloggers like Erickson have definitely played a role in hyping Trump -- just refer back to Erickson's blog titled, "Yes, I Would Vote for Donald Trump For President" -- but Trump's rise has been sanctioned by a much bigger ally: Fox News.
Fox, a corporate cousin to The Wall Street Journal, has played perhaps the largest role in the promotion of Trump as a legitimate candidate, a fact that is suspiciously missing from the Journal's editorial (despite the fact that Erickson is a contributor on the network). Within the past three months, Trump has far exceeded any other GOP candidate in regards to airtime on Fox News, enjoying 4 hours and 45 minutes on the national platform over the course of 31 appearances.
Until he turned on one of their own, Fox hosts have been quick to praise Trump and defend him from controversy in the past. Fox's entire primetime line-up rallied to defend Trump and his anti-immigrant comments after NBC severed business ties with the presidential hopeful for unapologetically referring to Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and criminals. The network then led the charge crediting Trump for igniting a national debate on immigration.
Eric Bolling has repeatedly gone to bat for Trump, praising him for "making the rest of the [GOP] field better," while Sean Hannity championed Trump as the "direct result of a weak and timid ... Republican party." Bill O'Reilly gave Trump a platform to continue calling Latin American immigrants rapists and criminals and justified Trump's vitriol as simply an attempt to inartfully "highlight a problem." Others like Gretchen Carlson lashed out at the RNC following reports chairman Reince Priebus had scolded Trump about his inflammatory rhetoric.
There was also the cycle of back-patting that occurred between Fox's morning show Fox & Friends and Trump, where the program and the candidate repeatedly traded compliments on the network and at campaign events.
Fox hosts and contributors have gone so far to instruct other Republican candidates to be more like Trump. Fox contributor Laura Ingraham lauded Trump for teaching other candidates "how to build a brand," while network judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano urged candidates to "take a lesson from the Donald" after exclaiming he's "thrilled" Trump is in the race. Andrea Tantaros once instructed GOP presidential candidates to "follow Donald Trump's lead."
Fox News is now seemingly following Erickson in backing away from Trump, since the bombastic candidate they helped build is turning his vitriol on Megyn Kelly, one of their own. But if outlets like the Journal are calling out those conservative media outlets culpable for his rise in the first place, Fox News should be first on the list.
A Wall Street Journal editorial conflated the public charity known as the Clinton Foundation with the private, personal Clinton Family Foundation in a misleading attack on Hillary Clinton's charitable giving -- and their misinformation made its way straight to Fox News primetime.
Clinton recently released her tax returns as part of her presidential campaign, and the returns reveal that she and her husband Bill donated nearly $15 million to charity from 2007-2014. The vast majority of that money went to their private philanthropic Clinton Family Foundation.
As Nonprofit Quarterly explained, the Clinton Family Foundation acts "a clearinghouse for the family's personal philanthropy." According to the Family Foundation's 2014 tax filing, Hillary and Bill Clinton are the only donors, and the Family Foundation distributes their money to various charities and nonprofits, including New York Public Radio, the American Nurses Foundation, the American Heart Association -- and the separate William J. Clinton Foundation.
The William J. Clinton Foundation -- which was recently renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation -- is the highly-respected international charity that has garnered significant media attention since Clinton announced her run for president. It is the foundation that helps AIDS/HIV sufferers around the world get better medicine, and battles global health crises, economic inequality, childhood obesity, and climate change.
But in its August 4 editorial, the Journal conflated the two charities in their attack on Clinton's giving.
The Journal suggested that it was inappropriate for the Clinton family to give the vast majority of their charitable contributions to their own foundation, because, they claimed, the foundation "isn't exactly the Little Sisters of the Poor," and instead "While the foundation does contribute to charitable causes, it also doubles as a vehicle to promote the first family's political ambitions and public profile."
Though they correctly named the "Family Foundation," the Journal went on to claim that the foundation spends "an outsized portion of its money, for instance, picking up the travel and other expenses for the whole family":
The foundation has also functioned between campaigns and stints in public office as a jobs program and financier for various Clinton operatives. Sidney Blumenthal, who was banned by the White House from a job at the State Department, was paid by the foundation while he was dispensing bad advice on Libya to Mrs. Clinton. Foreign governments, unions, wealthy Democrats and corporations donated to the foundation knowing its political importance to the woman who could be the next U.S. President.
The Clintons play by their own political rules, and taking a nearly $15 million tax write-off to assist their electoral ambitions is merely the latest.
The problem is that the Family Foundation -- which received the nearly $15 million -- doesn't appear to have done most of those things. The global Clinton Foundation is the one which reportedly paid for some travel expenses and for the salaries of some Clinton advisers, but it received only a portion of the family's total charitable giving (a little over $1.8 million out of roughly $3.7 million in contributions in 2014, for example).
As Michael Wyland explained at NonProfit Quarterly (emphasis added), "it's understandable that the two foundations could be confused. However, a national publication expressing its official opinion about a presidential candidate's charitable activities should be expected to perform some due diligence."
Unfortunately, Fox's Bill O'Reilly also failed to perform that due diligence. Picking up on the Journal story, O'Reilly blasted Clinton's charitable giving during his August 5 show:
The Wall Street Journal reporting today in an editorial that although the Clintons donated about $15 million to charity between the years 2007 and 2014, all but 200,000 of that was given to the Clinton Foundation. Which pays travel and other expenses for the Clinton family and gives them a forum to promote public policy, in addition to helping various causes like combating world hunger. The Clintons wrote off $15 million in charitable deductions on their taxes.
The email situation's murky, and we're glad the FBI is finally involved. But the charity situation is not confusing. For seven years the Clintons funded their own foundation, which in part benefits them, and took a huge deduction in doing so.
I have a foundation. I know what I'm talking about.
Donating to their own internationally-renowned public charity seems like a logical thing the Clintons would do -- the fact is much of the Clintons' contributions also went to a variety of other charities, through their private Family Foundation.
Major U.S. newspapers ran front page stories about devastating California wildfires alongside reports on the Environmental Protection Agency's newly-finalized Clean Power Plan, President Obama's flagship policy to address climate change. Yet with only one exception, these newspapers' wildfire articles ignored the documented role that global warming has played in worsening wildfires.
Right-wing media are trumpeting the myth that Planned Parenthood uses federal funds for abortion services to prop up Congressional Republicans' attempt to defund the women's health organization, despite the fact that it's been unlawful for federal money to support abortion for nearly 40 years.
Right-wing media outlets are hyping disclosures that health insurance premium rates could "skyrocket" for some plans in 2016 as proof of the Affordable Care Act's failure as a national policy, ignoring the fact that these reported rates are skewed and not final, and that previous "rate shock" predictions have fallen flat.
Right-wing media are seizing on a New York Times report that misleadingly stated that Paul Begala sought "talking points" from the State Department before a CNN appearance to discuss Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state to attack the CNN contributor as biased. But in the email in question, Begala actually requested a "briefing," not talking points.
Several months into the 2016 presidential campaign, the media is frequently failing to fact-check statements by presidential candidates denying the science of climate change. Seven major newspapers and wire services surveyed by Media Matters have thus far failed to indicate that candidates' statements conflict with the scientific consensus in approximately 43 percent of their coverage, while the major broadcast and cable news outlets other than MSNBC have failed to do so 75 percent of the time.
Toxic air pollution from power plants has been linked to serious health problems including cancer, heart attacks, and premature death, and mercury in particular is a potent neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for young children and pregnant women. But that hasn't stopped conservative media from joyfully celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court decision that jeopardizes the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to rein in this harmful pollution.
Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change reveals his belief that there is a moral obligation to act swiftly on climate change, which disproportionately harms the world's poor. But conservative media are relentlessly attacking the pope over the encyclical, calling it "insipid" and "blasphemous," and fearmongering that the Catholic leader is a "Marxist" pushing for "a new world order," among other things.
Several media outlets parroted Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's economic message after he claimed his administration would oversee 4 percent economic growth and the creation of up to 19 million new jobs. But economists argue that his goals are unrealistic, and question the impact any single president can have on "decades-long trends."
Right-wing media outlets are attacking a new rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) designed to increase diversity in American neighborhoods, calling it an attempt by President Obama to dictate where people live. But the program merely provides grant money to encourage communities to provide affordable housing and greater access to community resources.
Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley falsely claimed that the FBI misrepresented data on mass shootings to "help drive Democratic turnout" during the 2014 midterm elections. In fact, the report only contained data on "active shooter" situations, not mass shootings, and made that clear in the introduction, which stated, "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings."
In a June 9 editorial headlined, "Obama's Gun-Control Misfire," Riley wrote, "Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply -- by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013."
But the 2014 FBI report, which focuses on 160 incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013, literally says it is not about "mass shootings," but rather a different phenomenon known as an "active shooter" situation. From the report's introduction (emphasis added):
This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings, but rather a study of a specific type of shooting situation law enforcement and the public may face. Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context. Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence--pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public--were not included in this study. In addition, other gun-related shootings were not included when those incidents appeared generally not to have put others in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a school building or a person who chose to publicly commit suicide in a parking lot). The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope. Nonetheless, it was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.
The FBI defined an active shooter situation as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area," and found that such incidents occurred with increasing frequency over a 13-year period starting in 2000.
In his opinion piece, Riley used his inaccurate reading of the report to claim that the Obama administration hoped to use the report to help Democrats win in the 2014 midterm elections and to advance its own gun safety agenda:
The White House could not possibly have been more pleased with the media reaction to these findings, which were prominently featured by the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, the Washington Post and other major outlets. The FBI report landed six weeks before the midterm elections, and the administration was hoping that the gun-control issue would help drive Democratic turnout.
Following the high-profile mass shootings in 2012 at a cinema in Aurora, Colo., and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the White House pushed hard for more gun-control legislation. Congress, which at the time included a Democratic-controlled Senate, refused to act. This surprised no one, including an administration well aware that additional gun controls wouldn't pass muster with enough members of the president's own party, let alone Republicans.
But the administration also knew that the issue could potentially excite Democratic base voters in a year when the party was worried about turnout. Hence President Obama's vow in his 2014 State of the Union address "to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."
To attack the report's credibility, Riley cited criticism of it from discredited gun researcher John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center. Lott has a history of manipulating statistics and making false claims about guns to advance his pro-gun agenda, and he is the author of the well-known but thoroughly debunked "more guns, less crime" hypothesis. Lott, who is not considered a credible source for information about mass shootings, recently claimed Fox News is partnering with him to "start systematically publishing news stories about mass public shootings that have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders." (According to an analysis of 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones, no such cases exist.)
Riley's false accusations are the latest in a series of outlandish and baseless criticisms of the Obama administration and gun laws. In a 2014 appearance on Fox News, he said "The administration already has enough race baiters, starting with the president continuing to Eric Holder, his attorney general." In 2013, he said controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense laws "[benefit], disproportionately, poor blacks," even though research has shown that killings defended with such laws are much more likely to be found justified when a white person killed a black person, rather than the reverse.
The Wall Street Journal's opinion page has been serving as a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry's attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which will set limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Nearly every WSJ op-ed about the proposed rule since it was released on June 2, 2014 has been written by people with ties to the energy industry -- and every single one has attacked it.
Some media outlets are distorting comments made by President Obama claiming he admitted he doesn't have a "complete strategy" to fight the terrorist group the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL). But the full context of the remarks -- which were reported correctly by a number of media outlets -- shows that Obama was only referencing the complete strategy of training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers.