Denial by media

The Conversations is a good website for getting accurate news and exposing the anti climate science spin in the Murdoch newspapers.  

Report into the reporting of the carbon debate"

A SCEPTICAL CLIMATE Media coverage of climate change in Australia 2011 - Prof Wendy Bacon Aust. Centre for independent journalism.

Key findings:
• Overall, negative coverage of the Gillard government’s carbon policy across ten 
newspapers outweighed positive coverage across ten Australian newspapers by 73% to 
27%. (Note: After neutral items were discounted). (See page 32)
• All papers contained some positive and a substantial amount of neutral material. The 
highest level of neutral articles was found in The Age and The Hobart Mercury, the lowest 
level was found in The Northern Territory News and The Daily Telegraph. (See page 32)
• After neutral items were discounted, negative coverage (82%) across News Ltd 
newspapers far outweighed positive (18%) articles. This indicates a very strong stance 
against the carbon policy adopted by the company that controls most Australian 
metropolitan newspapers, and the only general national daily. (See page 33)
• By comparison, Fairfax was far more balanced in its coverage of the policy than News Ltd 
publications with 57% positive articles outweighing 43% negative articles. (See page 33)
• The Age was more positive (67%) rather than negative towards the policy than any other 
newspaper. The Daily Telegraph was the most negative (89%) rather than positive of 
newspapers. (See page 33) 
• Headlines were less balanced than the actual content of articles. (See Figures 7 and 9 on 
pages  29 and 30).12
• Neutral articles were more likely to be headlined negatative (41%) than positive (19%). (See 
page 34)
• Readers relying on metropolitan newspapers living in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane 
received more coverage of carbon policy issues than readers in Perth, Adelaide and 
Darwin. (See page 25)
• The Australian gave far more space to the coverage of climate change than any other 
newspaper.  Its articles were coded 47% negative, 44% neutral and 9% positive. When 
neutrals were discounted, there were 84% negative articles compared to 17% positive. 
(See page 32)


This following article was written by Prof. Stephan Lewandowsky.

Nowhere has the reliance on spin been more apparent than during the coverage of the climate "debate" by the Murdoch media and allied shock jocks.

The Australian government is currently seeking to introduce a rather modest tax on carbon <> , which will have little effect on low-to-moderate income earners, but which will nonetheless help cut emissions, thus finally getting Australia to live up to its historical responsibilities <>  as one of the world's largest per capita carbon emitters and one of the dirtiest <> producers of power.

The resultant "debate" about the carbon tax has turned into a fact-free brawl that is sufficiently devoid of ethics to make football hooligans blush.  Segments of the media, alas, do not blush.

During the recent truck "convoy" that descended upon Parliament Hill <>  in Canberra to protest against the carbon tax, faint memories of Allende's Chile were quickly overpowered by the raging tirade <>  of the presiding shock jock, Alan Jones, who whipped his crowd of truckwits into a frenzy when journalists asked whether he had been paid for his engagement.  Not a silly question, given that this individual has been involved in a cash-for-comment scandal <>  before.

This rage has been no isolated incident.  At a recent talkfest by vaudevillian <>denialist Lord Christopher Monckton, a journalist of the ABC was jostled <>  by the hostile crowd.

And despite the robustness of its editorial, the Australian appears remarkably thin-skinned.  Its editor-in-chef threatened to sue <>  a former reporter for defamation because she reportedly said <>  writing about climate change <>  at the paper was "absolutely excruciating.  It was torture."

In response to all this, and in the absence of politicians with sufficient courage to take on the hate-mongers, some Australian academics have started to provide a platform for accountability by shining a light on the media's practices.

Using the Conversation <> , the world's first daily paper written primarily by academics in co-operation with journalists, academics are beginning to catalogue <>  the excruciating and tortuous daily distortions of climate science by various papers, especially by the Australian, Murdoch's flagship publication.

This catalogue reveals much that is humorous, albeit involuntarily so.

According to the Australian's front page, a picture of an aged and bronzed Aussie swimmer on an iconic beach <> is evidence against the threat of sea level rises.  Why? Because if 80-year-old Kevin Court hasn't noticed the sea rising, then why bother with satellite data?  And because that was so much fun, let's do it again and put the 53-year-old veteran swimmer Lee Boman <>  on the front page a few months later.  Two nice blokes in trunks allay all our fears about rising sea levels and prove that climate change is a hoax.  Or something like that.

When the technical difficulties and expenditures associated with the procurement of photos become prohibitive, the Australian will happily resort to an internet chain email <>  to present "facts" about CO2 emissions.  Flagship journalism at its best.

On the odd occasions that practicing scientists are contacted, their statements either disappear without a trace or are distorted <>  beyond recognition.  Two months ago, an article on "a deluge of news" <>  jubilantly declared that the "first solid rains for two years have all but broken the drought that has crippled the West Australian grain industry."

Actually, no.

The journalist should have been in possession of information from climatologists that autumn rains had been far below average and drier than last year - which had ended up being the driest on record.  Somehow that information was exchanged for the obligatory soothing quote from farmer Brian Cusack in Narembeen, who talked of a "normal year."

Since then, inflow into Perth reservoirs has remained frighteningly minimal <>  and total winter rain has been significantly below average, as explained and predicted by the climatologists months ago.

And all this deluge of spin and misinformation before we even get to the opinion pages of Murdoch's flagship paper.  Those opinion pages, offering a smorgasbord of denialist talking points, resemble the event horizon of a black hole <> .

And all this before we descend into the netherworld of the gutter press and shock jocks.

It must also be noted that the editor-in-chief of the Australian, Chris Mitchell, received the "JN Pierce award for media excellence for leading the newspaper's coverage of climate change policy <> " in 2009.  This annual award is presented by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

More recently, the Australian used its considerable moral weight to vow that they would help destroy the Greens at the ballot box. <>   The Greens are the party whose politicians, according to recent research <> , exclusively rely on scientists to shape their views on climate.  In contrast, only 44% of conservative opposition politicians relied on scientists, with the remainder seeking information from other sources - perhaps the cat palmist <>  who opines on climate on TV.

A vow to destroy the party that relies on scientists for scientific advice - how extreme!  How radical! - is what many people would call an agenda.

And it is pursuit of that agenda which has arguably contributed to the increasingly fact-free state of Australian public life, in which eruptions of populist rage trump peer-reviewed science, in which climate scientists receive death threats <> , and in which reporters who practice actual journalism are subject to legal threats.


That is what happens when a media conglomerate and their allies go out of control and escape accountability.  The result is a society poised to embark on a Stanford prison experiment <> .

* Stephan Lewandowsky <!/STWorg>  is a Winthrop professor and Australian professorial fellow at the University of Western Australia.  His research addresses the distinction between scepticism and denial and how people respond to misinformation.