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93% of Fox News climate change coverage misleading

Posted on 1 October 2012 by John Cook

I've just had an article What happened to climate change? Fox News and the US elections published in The Conversation that examines the reality inversion promoted by News Corporation. Here's an excerpt:

An analysis of prime time programs on Fox News has found that 93% of their coverage of climate science in 2012 was misleading. The report, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, analysed six months of prime time segments covering climate change in early 2012.

The Wall Street Journal, News Corporation’s other media flagship, didn’t fare much better. The report also included WSJ opinion pieces over the last year and found 81% of their climate change coverage was misleading.

To characterise this coverage as biased doesn’t capture the magnitude of their treatment of climate science. News Corporation is promoting an inversion of reality. For the past several decades, there has been a strengthening scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming.

Surveys of the climate science community since 1996 have found the percentage of climate scientists agreeing on human-caused global warming has steadily increased to the point where in the last few years, several independent surveys have found 97% agreement among actively publishing climate scientists.

Fine words from Murdoch but …

As the scientific consensus strengthened, there have been signs of improvement in media coverage of climate change. From 1988 to 2002, US prestige press newspapers such as the New York Times, Washington Post (and yes, the Wall Street Journal) gave disproportionate attention to climate contrarians. However, coverage improved to the point where in 2007, 96% of U.S. prestige newspaper coverage of climate change depicted human contribution to climate change as significant.

At this time, Rupert Murdoch pledged that News coverage of climate change would improve. In 2007, he said “I think when people see that 99% of scientists agree about the serious extent of global warming, it’s going to become a fact of life”. In fact, the link between perception of scientific consensus and acceptance of climate change has been demonstrated by researchers. The important consequence emerging from this research is that perception of consensus is also a strong predictor of support for climate policy.

Despite Murdoch’s promise to improve Fox coverage, this 2012 analysis shows that coverage is worse than ever at Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.

I recommend checking out the full article. If my last Conversation article is any indication, expect plenty of knee-jerk science rejection in the comments thread.

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Comments 1 to 20:

  1. There's been some outrage expressed by investors in the News Corp. global octopus concerning James Murdoch's ascent to the throne. That said, would promotion of the younger Murdoch improve matters w/regard to accurate coverage of climate change? There's reason to believe that might happen. An article in Grist covered this last year:
    James [Murdoch] gets the scale of the climate crisis: “This is crunch time right now. All of the climate prediction models suggest we’re on the worst-case trajectory, and some cases worse than the worst case,” he told The Observer in 2009. That same year, he talked up the benefits of “a gradually declining cap on carbon pollution” in a Washington Post op-ed entitled “Clean energy is a conservative cause.” His wife, Kathryn Hufschmid Murdoch, is a climate hawk too. She has worked and served as an advisory board member at the Clinton Climate Initiative, and she’s on the board of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Climate change is the most urgent global issue facing humankind,” she wrote in 2007. James “holds dinners that bring together environmental advocates, academics and executives,” according to The New York Times, including one in 2008 that included EDF head Fred Krupp, London Mayor Boris Johnson, and then-BP CEO Tony Hayward.
    Does James Murdoch hate climate skepticism as much as phone-hacking?
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  2. You were right, the anti-science comments were the first!
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  3. I "lived" this news story when it was published on Yahoo News a few days ago. In fact, for nearly two days I didn't do anything else but reply to Yahoo News Comments, argue with Deniers and inform Skeptics. I directed as many as possible to the Skeptical Science website. It was an intense period of exchange - eat, sleep, and type away like a madman on my laptalk. John Cook may note a late September increase in hits to the SkS website. There were literally thousands of comments to this Yahoo News article. Its popularity was probably due to a number of factors: 1. The U.S. is approaching the "make or break" period in a presidential campaign that was already in full gear last year. Ultra-conservatives in the Republican Party has forced Governor Romney to retreat from his previous acceptance of ACC. It's getting crazy here, folks! 2. This story "93% of Fox News climate change coverage misleading" followed immediately on the heels of the news story from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) that Arctic sea ice had hit "record" lows. 3. Many are upset that no questions involving climate change were planned for any of the three upcoming presidential debates. That may change. 4. Many are complete exasperated with News Corporation. As the article notes, it is not just Fox News, but also Wall Street Journal editorials. Some Yahoo commentors have also noticed a decline in the quality of WSJ news articles since Murdoch took over. Anyone wishing to discuss this further with me directly, feel free to contact me at (-snip-). --Gary Walker (aka TomPainInTheAsk)
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Please refrain from the use of all-caps (converted to lower case above). Personal information snipped.
  4. Arguments in the SkS Top 20 marked by “-” were not seen very much in play among the thousands of Yahoo News comments. Perhaps they are in decline, or they are not currently promoted by News Corporation's Fox News and WSJ editorials. It is easy to identify what lies Fox News currently broadcasts without watching Fox programs, just by the frequency of remarks in Yahoo News. 1 Climate's changed before 4.6% 2 It's the sun 4.5% 3 It's not bad 4.3% 4 There is no consensus 3.4% -5 It's cooling 3.4% 6 Models are unreliable 3.1% 7 Temp record is unreliable 2.6% 8 Animals and plants can adapt 2.4% -9 It hasn't warmed since 1998 2.1% 10 Antarctica is gaining ice 2.0% -11 CO2 lags temperature 2.0% 12 Ice age predicted in the 70s 1.9% 13 Climate sensitivity is low 1.9% -14 We're heading into an ice age 1.8% -15 Ocean acidification isn't serious 1.8% 16 Hockey stick is broken 1.8% 17 Climategate CRU emails suggest conspiracy 1.7% 18 Hurricanes aren't linked to global warming 1.7% -19 Glaciers are growing 1.6% 20 Al Gore got it wrong 1.6% Below are frequent arguments I encountered that are not in SkS's current Top 20. 24 Sea level rise is exaggerated 27 Mars is warming 1.2% (followed by Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto!) 28 Arctic icemelt is a natural cycle 29 Increasing CO2 has little to no effect 1.1% 32 IPCC is alarmist 1.0% 39 CO2 is not a pollutant 0.8% 54 It's a natural cycle 0.5% 60 Scientists can't even predict weather 0.5% 85 Solar Cycle Length proves its the sun 0.3% 86 CO2 is not the only driver of climate 0.2% 102 Arctic sea ice loss is matched by Antarctic sea ice gain 0.2% 106 Solar cycles cause global warming 0.2% 111 The IPCC consensus is phoney 0.1% 126 Most of the last 10,000 years were warmer 0.1% 133 The sun is getting hotter 0.1% 136 Skeptics were kept out of the IPCC? 0.0%
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  5. It might be nice to hope that James Murdoch might make some difference, but, well, if he's going to, where's the evidence? He can hardly say he doesn't have a platform; why isn't he using it? Frankly, NewsCorp is so ridden with ideologues that it's very hard to imagine it ever changing without a root-and-branch, intentional - and highly-unlikely - clean sweep. Once centrist, The Australian, for instance, is now not much more than a far-right-wing thinktank that happens to publish the national daily. Just as Rupert created it. It is a veritable crypt of Zombie notions, and not just regarding climate...
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  6. I think that for James Murdoch it his fiduciary responsibility to adhere to the denialist party line. The News Corp viewer/reader demographics skew toward climate denial and maintaining viewership which in turn generates the highest amount of ad revenue; that is his main priority. Reality and corporate citizenry pale in comparison to next quarters dividends. Legally he is required to manage in such a way that best ensures profit for the shareholder.
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  7. YubeDude: Concur. I haven't seen any real change since James took over from Rupert. "Stupid is as stupid does." Forrest Gump. The proof is in the pudding.
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  8. The Murdoch empire's Australian mouthpiece, The Australian, has been a welcome home for climate "skeptics" articles. The Australian pushes so many barrows, that I've stopped reading it. And they typically only run one side of an argument, which is deeply unsatisfying. Still, maybe they are just trying to be controversial, because it sells newspapers. The recent restructure of News is supposedly designed to stop the cross subsidisation of newspapers that has been around for ages. The Australian has supposedly never made a profit. It will be interesting to see what effect the restructure has.
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  9. I read a Rolling Stone article about FOX News CEO Roger Aimes last year, and it would seem that he is the one most aggressively pushing the anti-science bias re: climate change there. Aimes is of course a long-standing fixture in the far right politics of the US, first emerging as Richard Nixon's campaign manager in 1968. The RS article suggested that James Murdoch has basically persuaded his old man of the soundness of prevailing science, the elder Murdoch was even quoted as saying "Roger [Aimes] is nuts" on that score. Despite which climate science and sensible policies informed by it are a continuing casualty of what looks like an ongoing power struggle at News Corp.
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  10. 93% wrong doesn't even rise to the level of an inept propaganda machine. Since every opinion manipulator knows, one must first establish trust by offering a certain amount of truth. When that audience is drawn in, only then does the skilled propagandist brandish their swill. Fox doesn't even rise to that level - maybe we should be thankful that they are so bad at it.
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  11. I haven't seen any real change since James took over from Rupert. That would be for the reason that Murdoch the Younger hasn't taken over from Murdoch the Elder. As of just now young Murdoch is a "minister without portfolio" in the Murdoch Empire, is wandering in the desert, has been since his memory became significantly impaired while attempting to recollect his involvement in the NoW/NI organized crime coverup.
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  12. Rpauli at 10. As our friend Smith would say, they are very good at staying "on message" which seemed to be a virtue in his value system...
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  13. Fox what did you say. Oh!!! News. No kidding. When did they start dispensing news.
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  14. YubeDude #6 wrote, "Legally he is required to manage in such a way that best ensures profit for the shareholder. " OK maybe I am being too literal but there are no laws that directors etc. should ensure profit for shareholders. It is most probably the aim of the company, nothing more. Certainly not something that should trump law, and in my opinion, ethics.
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  15. Mighty Drunken: What would you say about the increasing numbers of cases where company directors or managers are being charged with criminal fraud, or shareholders are filing class action lawsuits (and winning) because companies were not managed in the best interests of the shareholders? A Google search will bring up tons of stuff. This one (picked semi-randomly) seems to cover the idea reasonably well: the relevant term seems to be "shareholder derivative action". Managers do have legal obligations to the shareholders.
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  16. MD + Bob Loblaw It's a basic requirement of business -- and a legal requirement, certainly in the UK -- that the directors of a company must maximise the profits for, and look after the interests of, the shareholders. However, it goes without saying that these aims must be accomplished within the law of the land; for overstepping the mark could bring the firm into disrepute and thus damage shareholder value -- which is exactly what the hacking scandal brought about for News International. Looking at the environmental angle, clearly these requirements can be interpreted in many different ways. A responsible company might come to the realisation that a short-term pursuit of profits could actually harm the long-term survival of the company and thus the interests of shareholders. Consequently, enlightened directors might realise that anything that damages their company's ability to, say, obtain raw materials or operate as usual, is something they should work to overcome. This is why, for instance, both insurance providers and food companies have accepted the science of climate change and are taking steps to engage actively in the fight to prevent it. There's more about this here from an organisation which seeks to encourage businesses to make a difference. I'm proud to have helped certain companies on that list achieve the highest positions in their sectors. It's never enough of course, but we can do our bit through our choices to keep the pressure on.
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  17. Law and ethical behavior are a loose fit, are not necessarily in pursuit of the same objectives. For an interesting case of a conundrum produced by the collision of business objectives and implicit promises to shareholders versus the law, see this article: Insurance Companies Face Increased Risk from Global Warming. It's an ironic title, given that some insurance companies are confronted with a difficult choice about whether and how to actually face global warming:
    Insurers could be sued both by emitters that are trying to pass on liability, or by investors claiming they did not adequately disclose risks to the market. In 2010, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asked companies to report how climate change may affect profitability, potentially opening the The courts have yet to rule on whether greenhouse gas emitters can be tied to climate events. way for investor lawsuits.
    Fear leads to feigned ignorance:
    “Acknowledging climate risk would be a risk for [any] company in an American context,” says Andreas Spiegel, at Swiss Re. “There is the risk that the company or the managers would be held liable for their actions in relation to that.”
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  18. The latest issue of National Wildlife has a commentary from Obama in reference to their questions, but Rombot just sent them the platitudes of his party and refused to answer questions...and it is very disturbing. Gee, I hope someone asks during the debates. Rombot's position is so corporate it can hardly be believed...but believe it.
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  19. Mr Bostrom, thank you for the ins co reference. It will help me with some research I am doing.
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  20. Andrew Mclaren@9: That would be "Ailes," not "Aimes." Roger Ailes has a looooooong history of being vehemently anti-liberal and aggressively right-leaning in his stewardship of Fox News. His is an ethic informed by the late Lee Atwater, the modern guru of attack politics, damned the cost.
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