How New York Times, NPR And Wall Street Journal Print Fossil Fuel Talking Points Without Full Disclosure

Major news outlets often mislead readers by failing to report the fossil fuel funding of the conservative think tanks they cite and quote, according to a new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Journalists commonly cited eight groups with known oil, gas, and coal funding: The American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, Heritage Foundation, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and Institute for Energy Research (and its arm American Energy Alliance).

In total, they were cited 357 times, but outlets identified their funding from the Koch brothers, American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, or General Motors a mere one-third of the time:

Based on a Nexus search, UCS’s Elliott Negin found the rate of reporting varies widely across outlets: Politico and the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press disclosed funding over 40 percent of the time. The two largest papers in the country, USA Today and Wall Street Journal (owned by Rupert Murdoch), disclosed this information the least. And if Koch Industries succeeds in its bid for the Los Angeles Times, along with seven other major papers, it is possible the average will drop even more.

By not disclosing what exactly fuels myths about climate change science and clean energy, readers are free to take claims from groups at face value. Take an example from Politico on Wednesday, which ran an article on wind turbines and the California condor. Politico quotes the American Energy Alliance at length, but only identifies it as “the political arm of the energy industry-funded Institute for Energy Research,” although the Koch affiliate has pledged to fight wind energy.

One reason for journalists return to fossil fuel talking heads is false balance. Journalists include quotes from climate deniers to present “the other side,” even though on issues like climate, one is overwhelmingly substantiated in the scientific field. Bloomberg News recently did this by giving equal weight to climate science denier Marc Morano’s long-debunked arguments.

24 Responses to How New York Times, NPR And Wall Street Journal Print Fossil Fuel Talking Points Without Full Disclosure

  1. Superman1 says:

    On the topic of media, see article in Salon today titled “Media indifference enables global warming”; some very important comments.

  2. Patrick says:

    I am glad this info is available. But often, in some print publications, space is an issue–also citations of who funds what in a journalism piece is pretty rare. Often the writers and editors have NO idea where the funding comes from because it is rarely publicized. So making this seem like some nefarious plot is dubious (on the part of media anyway)

  3. Raul M. says:

    Is there a count of disclosure, yet, concerning news stories about citizen interest groups having tax exemption while funding political tv and newspaper ads.? Maybe there are conflict of interest reasons for disclosure when telling of a customers difficulties in maintaining tax exemption status.

  4. Matthew Tanner says:

    I don’t believe a damn thing anyone says anymore.

  5. BobbyL says:

    If the media could find a way to get more readers and viewers by giving more coverage to global warming they certainly would. I’m sure suggestions would be welcome. Media companies love to make money. Climate change has to compete with numerous important and not so important issues for attention in the media. If what is predicted to happen during the next ninety years were compressed into one year no doubt coverage would be exponentially greater.

  6. katy says:

    it’s always about controlling the message…
    and it’s everywhere.

    do these groups buy ad space and time from those media outlets?

  7. Joshua Graciano says:

    Do people too stupid to read between the lines, written or spoken, follow the news organizations studied? I don’t need a thorough background given when the guy from “The Future Is So Bright!” thinktank talks about the wonderful opportunities Tar Sands oil will give us. I’m pretty sure I know where he’s coming from.

  8. The Union of Concerned Scientists is doing great work. This is an example. I implore everyone on this site to support them.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    In fact the Rightwing MSM in capitalist countries has as a priority its propaganda and indoctrination role in shoring up the system of elite rule, exploitation and all round parasitism, ie the ruling plutocracy. Making money is good, but the priority is the brainwashing role, and the MSM is often cross-subsidised by other parts of the capitalist system. The MSM is one of the bulwarks of the system, so no chances are taken, dissenting opinions being more or less expunged decades ago. And that is why they are coming for the web next.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Nearly all the funding comes, in the end, from the plutocracy who own, control and police the Rightwing MSM, which operates as a propaganda and indoctrination system for the ruling plutocrats.

  11. Mike Roddy says:

    Academic/professional type groups who wring their hands about media corruption are kind of harmless. What we need to do is humiliate our pitiful mainstream media, boycott key advertisers, and work toward well funded and staffed alternatives.

    Six media companies control 90% of content. Ownership is right wing, and not reformable.

  12. Bob h says:

    What’s worse, these institutions are usually identified as “think tanks”, and their employees as “scholars” when high end houses of prostitution might be more appropriate.

  13. BobbyL says:

    It would be helpful if you presented some evidence to support this thesis. Claiming brainwashing requires proof. I doubt if journalists graduate college with an intent to go into a career of brainwashing. This charge seems rather far fetched. I think most journalists are motivated to gets scoops and find angles for stories. It is difficult so see how this brainwashing actually can take place. What better way would there to be for these corporations then to have news stories of a major threat. There doesn’t seem to be any incentive not to play up threats. That should hold true for global warming but this threat difficult for the media to portray, unlike a war. I don’t think an explanation like capitalist brainwashing is needed to explain things.

  14. Daniel Coffey says:

    Sexless prostitution at its finest!

  15. Superman1 says:

    “Claiming brainwashing requires proof.” Based on his postings, Mulga seems to have plenty of proof – Stolichnaya!

  16. Superman1 says:

    “high end”. That’s being very generous!

  17. SecularAnimist says:

    It depends on how you define “brainwashing”.

    Regular old TV commercials use some of the most sophisticated, manipulative and effective brainwashing techniques ever conceived — far more effective than the crude, primitive brainwashing techniques made infamous by, for example, North Korea — to get the American people to spend trillions of dollars on things that they don’t need, that satisfy no real need, that give them no real benefit, and actually cause them harm.

    Did you know, for example, that research has determined the exact rate at which images on a TV screen should change, to keep the viewer’s attention? If the images change too quickly, the viewer will be confused and lose interest. If they change too slowly, the viewer will become bored and lose interest. But if the images change at just the right speed, the viewer will keep watching to see what the next image is — and it does not matter at all what the images are. As long as they change at the right speed, the viewer’s attention will be held.

    Those commercial brainwashing techniques have been perfected by the most brilliant and insidious minds of Madison Avenue over the many decades that TV has existed. They are legal. They are taught in schools. They are routinely used by countless advertising agencies.

    Why would they NOT be employed to propagandize the American people with the broader corporate agenda — which most definitely includes continued business-as-usual extraction and consumption of fossil fuels?

  18. BobbyL says:

    Obviously this isn’t about advertising techniques. This is about articles in newspapers and magazines, news on the Internet and news reports on TV. Could news executives, editors and reporters possibly be engaged in a massive brainwashing operation to play down the threat of climate change because this is the goal of giant media corporations? I doubt it. Many of these reporters are willing to risk their lives to get stories in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact many have died in these efforts. So many of these peoples have dedicated their lives to getting stories even if it means endless phone calls and traveling to one place or another. How corporations could possibly get these type of people to purposely play down a huge story such as the threat of climate change to carry out a right wing agenda is beyond me. To understand the poor reporting on climate change in the media I think we have to look elsewhere.

  19. Superman1 says:

    BobbyL, I laid it out for you yesterday, but I’ll do it again. People want to ‘succeed’, to ‘get ahead’. The way you do that in most organizations, industry or government, is to figure out what the boss really wants, then do it without him or her having to ask, either in writing or verbally. If the boss generically is on the right side of the spectrum, eventually all those who want to ‘succeed’, or even stay, will configure their product accordingly.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Well, if you want to start, go to ‘Manufacturing Consent’, by Chomsky and Herman, then ‘Taking the Risk out of Democracy’ by Alex Carey. Then have a look at Medialens. But the best education is simply sampling the MSM and actually admitting that the propaganda system is well nigh 100% in full Groupthink mode when it comes to the ideological bedrock of plutocratic rule. That is, received, unanimous wisdom, like that capitalism is the best system ever, anyone can make it in the USA if they work hard enough, Putin, the Chinese, the Iranians et al are ‘bad guys’, whereas the USA are always the ‘good guys’,etc. Then, think of all the times that the MSM lied in unison, eg ‘Iraq’s WMD’, the ‘Syrian civil war’, ‘Libya’s involvement in Lockerbie’, ‘The Gulf of Tonkin Incident’ etc. Or think of all the subjects that the MSM missed, somehow, like the GFC, which was predicted by scores of non-mainstream commentators with a little historical knowledge of speculative bubbles and financial industry malfeasance. Then think of how climate destabilisation has simply disappeared from the MSM, with that ‘spooky synchronicity’ that the Rightwing MSM so often displays. And I could go on for quite a while.

  21. Superman1 says:

    Mulga, “And I could go on for quite a while.” No doubt you could, if the past is any predictor of the future. But, my preceding paragraph has stated quite succinctly the point you were attempting to make with your Joycean stream of consciousness.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    That would be Joyce Grenfell I suppose. Thanks.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’d say ‘rear end’, but that might be too vulgar.

  24. Debi says:

    Bottomline, journalists are unwilling (too lazy) or unable (not given the time/money) to do investigative journalism anymore. Investigative journalism had its heyday circa Watergate and is fast disappearing. Now sources call THE REPORTER rather than the reporter calling their sources, so stories are generated by the source rather than by the reporter. And yes, PBS often quotes think tank “experts” without noting their bias, often letting these experts make claims that have no basis in fact, without challenge–all in the name of balance. Checking the facts and calling out liars is considered to be the journalists’ job in most other “democracies.” Not in the U.S.