When 60 Minutes profiled Ecuadoreans who accuse Texaco, a company acquired by Chevron in 2001, of poisoning the rain forest, the world listened. So what did Chevron do, knowing that the story was coming? It hired its own journalist and made its own special.Chevron is being sued in a class-action lawsuit for $27 billion in damages for destroying large sections of Ecuador's rain forest. To counteract the bad publicity, they hired Gene Randall, a former CNN correspondent, to tell their side of the story.
According to the NY Times:
The two videos — one by CBS, the other by a corporation being scrutinized by CBS — run about 14 minutes long. They each discuss a class-action lawsuit filed by Ecuadoreans who accuse Texaco, a company acquired by Chevron in 2001, of poisoning the rain forest.
An Ecuadorean judge is expected to rule soon on whether Chevron owes up to $27 billion in damages, which would make the case "the largest environmental lawsuit in history," the "60 Minutes" correspondent, Scott Pelley, said.
Both videos start with a correspondent appearing on camera and calling it a "bitter" dispute. But from there, they diverge. The "60 Minutes" report visits the rain forest, talks to the Ecuadorean judge and interviews a Chevron manager. The Chevron video interviews the same Chevron manager, as well as five professors who are consultants to the oil company, but none of the plaintiffs.
The Chevron video never directly claims to be journalism. But a casual viewer could be swayed by the description — "Gene Randall reporting" — and the journalistic devices used, including file footage of the rain forest and over-the-shoulder interviews with experts. Chevron posted the video on YouTube as well as its own Web site devoted to the lawsuit.
Chevron declined to answer questions about the video. But in a statement, it said that "we produced this video in response to a campaign waged by trial lawyers. They've turned to Hollywood to tell a fictional story. We've turned to an award-winning, former journalist to tell a factual story."
Watch the videos for yourself and make your own judgment. Here's Chevron's, and here's the video from 60 Minutes.
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