UPDATE: NY Times replies to this post
NOTE: The NY Times has responded to this post (see below). I have updated two phrases for clarity and posted their response and my reply at the end. Now if I could only get them to post my critiques of their climate coverage!
Robert Brulle: The NY Times is, at best, oblivious to a blatant conflict of interest. How can we rely on the objectivity of this paper when they are co-sponsoring private conversations among an invited elite in league with the oil industry?
What is the New York Times thinking? The one-time paper of record has partnered with a major oil company to sponsor a private, elite conversation whereby Shell gets to leverage the credibility of the New York Times brand to attract an elite audience to peddle its greenwashing.
You can find that screenshot and full details at www.2011energysummit.com. Don’t you just love the wind turbines on a grassy field! How green Shell is! My favorite part of the website is the constant loop of favicons (website icons) for Shell and NYT, as if they were almost interchangeable.
At the top is the comment given to me by Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University, whom the NYT itself quoted in 2009 as “an expert on environmental communications.” You would think the NYT would be working doubly hard to protect its reputation after Newsweek got slammed for partnering with Big Oil (see Newsweek partners with oil lobby to raise ad cash, host energy and climate events with lawmakers “” while publishing the uber-greenwashing story, “Big Oil Goes Green for Real”).
It is obvious what Shell is getting — they can hob-nob with a former NY Times columnist (Frank Rich) and other members of the elite drawn in my the NYT co-sponsorship to push their entire green-washing message for two days. Check out the Agenda, which includes 75 minutes for “Eco-Marathon VIP Tour” (a contest Shell sponsor’s for super-efficient vehicles) and an hour for “Closing Session: Shell’s Commitment”. Its commitment to destroy a livable climate, perhaps?
What a messaging boon this is to the once-green, now-greenwashing oil company (see Shell shocker: Once ‘green’ oil company guts renewables effort and Investors warn Shell and BP over tar sands greenwashing).
You can’t buy this kind of press. Oh, wait. You can!
But what is the Times getting? This screenshot emailed me by a surprised invitee provides a clue:
So the Times is peddling to the elite audience some hyped up new media capability it has created that combines its content into some sort of interactive guide and magazine for conferences. Woo-hoo!
If I may paraphrase Sir Thomas More in the masterful A Man for All Seasons:
It profits a man nothing to give his soulï»¿ for the world. But for the iPad?
The NYT apparently thinks that the way to preserve its declining fortunes in the new media landscape is by selling off its remaining credibility.
As Brulle asks, “How can we rely on the objectivity of this paper when they are co-sponsoring private conversations among an invited elite in league with the oil industry?”
Their coverage of fossil-fuel-combustion-caused global warming has been quite poor at times (see here and here and the 2009 “Citizen Kane” award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to “¦). Now are we going to have to wonder in the future if their reporters’ coverage is influenced by spending so much time cozying up to oil companies executives, getting the industry “perspective ” — see, for instance, Science Times stunner: “”¦ a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity”)?
The paper’s coverage of the oil industry has also been questionable (see NYT suckered by ExxonMobil in puff piece titled “Green is for Sissies”).
And they have previously been criticized for running ExxonMobil’s false, greenwashing ad on their front page:
- The New York Times sells its integrity to ExxonMobil with front-page ad that falsely asserts “Today’s car has 95% fewer emissions than a car from 1970.”³
- Shame on the New York Times for running ExxonMobil’s greenwashing ad once again “” they can’t plead ignorance this time, only greed
- ExxonMobil Exaggerates Emissions Reductions In NYT Ad (Media Matters)
- Exxon’s Brazen Greenwashing, on the Front Page of The New York Times (Fast Company)
The Gray Lady drinks Texas tea. She should be gagging at the prospect.
UPDATE: Eileen M. Murphy Vice President, Corporate Communications at the NYT Company complains that this “blog posting portrays a very inaccurate picture of The Times role in this event”:
First, Frank Rich has left the New York Times; his invitation to attend as a speaker took place after his departure. The New York Times is a Media Sponsor of the event. We are not paying for any part of it, nor do we have any newsroom or Opinion involvement. We are not promoting the event in the newspaper or online. We are not providing any content and we are not sending anyone from our newsroom or opinion staff.
She asks that I “correct the record.”
As far as I can tell — and there would have been no possible way for anybody getting this invitation to know this — the ONLY error in the post is the phrase “hob-nob with NY Times reporters.” It should read “hob-nob with a former NYT columnist (Frank Rich).” I removed one other phrase that wasn’t wrong just because I didn’t want to leave any misimpression — a misimpression that the NYT’s own co-sponsored website still leaves. Indeed, Shell or whoever put together the website ( which presumably includes the NY Times) have obviously tried to create the impression that there would be New York Times honchos there — why else have Frank Rich, who is not actually an expert on energy?
Actually, it looks like the event is the worst of both possible worlds. The New York Times editorial/reporting side takes a credibility hit, and the marketing department is leaving the apparently false impression that the NYT staff is involved and that people might be hobnobbing with them. Note that the website still says that the conference’s “interactive conversation” will be built around, “content from the New York Times.” So for attendees, I think it is best classified as a bait and switch.
Again, anyone who thinks that the the NYT isn’t linking the credibility of its brand to Shell’s should click on this.
How I wish the NY Times would “correct the record” on its countless misinformed articles on energy and climate — starting with the ExxonMobil greenwashing discussed above and including:
- Brulle: NY Times article on climate science hearing “fails to inform the public, and plays into the strategy of the climate denial effort.”
- N.Y. Times Faces Credibility Siege over Unbalanced Climate Coverage: One oft-quoted communications expert calls this attack on the IPCC, “the worst, one sided reporting I have ever seen”¦. In this article, the New York Times has become an echo-chamber for the climate disinformation movement.”
- In yet another front-page journalistic lapse, the NY Times once again equates non-scientists “” Bastardi, Coleman, and Watts (!) “” with climate scientists
- Brulle: “The NY Times doesn’t need to go to European conferences to find out why public opinion on climate change has shifted”¦. Just look in the mirror.”
- Science Times stunner: “”¦ a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity”
- Revkin: “The idea that we’re going to fix the climate change problem or solve global warming has always been a fantasy, totally wishful, from my standpoint.”
- Apparently you can write an entire article on how the public doesn’t get climate science without mentioning the disinformation campaign or the media’s failings
- Revkin’s DotEarth hypes disinformation posted on an anti-science website