Rupert Murdoch & The Fox News Climate Conundrum


Photo: mroach, Flickr/CC BY-SA

Yesterday, Matt reported on the rather unsurprising (yet still interesting to view in the light of day) news that Fox 'journalists' had been given direct instructions to essentially never report on climate change without offering skeptical talking points as well. Predictably, the green and liberal blogosphere, which loves to hate Fox, went abuzz. The most interesting point to be raised, in my opinion, was just how different the stated objectives of the man who ordered his staff to proliferate climate disinformation, and the man who owns the newsroom. Rupert Murdoch has, after all, long professed to care about climate change -- what would he make of this event? Kate Sheppard points to a letter that Murdoch wrote about his green initiatives, designed to reduce the carbon emissions of his company:

News Corporation has always been about imagining the future and then making that vision a reality. We seek new ways to reach our global audiences and we address those issues that have the greatest impact on their lives. Global climate change is clearly one of those issues. So how do we, as a media company, do our part to confront this challenge?

It starts with us. We must first get our house in order. In May of 2007, we launched a global energy initiative across News Corporation to reduce our energy use and impact on the climate. Our goals are to fully understand our carbon and energy impact, to reduce that impact significantly and to inspire our employees to take action on this issue in their business and personal lives.

And here is the memo, again, from Fox News managing editor Bill Sammon:
..we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.
The statement clearly encourages employees to emphasize climate skepticism, to appeal to their audience's ideological preferences.

And if Rupert Murdoch's statements are genuine -- and we have no reason to doubt that they are, seeing as how he is moving ahead with his green initiative full force -- we have to assume that he'd be none to pleased with statements like that. He is, after all, seeking to "inspire" his "employees to take action on this issue in their business." Now, Roger Ailes is the bossman at Fox News, not Murdoch, and Ailes is a renowned climate denier. But Murdoch is ultimately the top dog. If he truly was dedicated to making progress on climate change, one has to imagine that he could press Fox to be more responsible in its coverage.

It's kind of crazy to consider -- if just one man, Rupert Murdoch, were to instruct his most influential news agency to responsibly cover global warming, it could indeed change the political landscape regarding climate enough to allow for action. I mean, imagine a world where Fox News wasn't sewing confusing on climate change but engaging in factual reportage of the subject -- it might be enough in and of itself to beget a paradigm shift amongst conservative Americans on the climate issue.

So if you're reading this Mr. Murdoch, and you truly care about fighting global warming, please revise your cable channel's editorial guidelines concerning this issue -- preserving a livable climate may depend on it ...

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