Media Matters Ignores Journalistic Responsibility

When it comes to ironic hyperbole, Media Matters tops the competition. In a dramatic diatribe of sorts, the self-described “progressive research and information center” published a blog post entitled, “FOXLEAKS: Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science.” Media Matters’ Ben Dimiero writes, In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the “veracity of climate change data” and ordering the network’s journalists to “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.”

As “reported” by Media Matters, the memo was sent by managing editor Bill Sammon. Interestingly, Dimiero ignores a key phrase in the original message. Here is the untainted text of Sammon’s e-mail (which I will give Dimiero credit for including later on in his hit piece):

…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.

It seems as though Dimiero purposefully chose to ignore Sammon’s note about journalistic responsibility. Whether or not you believe in the power of manmade global warming, we should all be in agreement that journalists have a responsibility to report the full scope of societal issues of importance. There are enough individuals casting doubt on human-induced global warming to compel any objective network (or, more appropriately: any network that claims to tout objectivity) to balance coverage on this important issue.

Sammon was avoiding journalistic leading, as he was requiring his staff to balance the notion that the earth has definitively warmed or cooled with valid concern from the opposing side. There’s nothing wrong with journalists “casting doubt” on an issue when there are a plethora of scientists — and citizens, for that matter — doing the same.

If there is any inkling of uncertainty, who better to seek ultimate truth than the media? If anything, I give Sammon credit for attempting to differentiate Fox from networks that have failed to even consider the possibility of natural warming and cooling patterns. These same networks have failed the public by refusing to showcase opposing views.

To put Sammon’s e-mail into perspective, one must also remember the Climategate scandal and the related questions surrounding global warming data. While Media Matters dismisses critics’ concerns, coverage of the mass anger (regardless of whether the scandal itself was viable) was warranted.

This issue certainly deserves more scrutiny. In Europe, the tide in belief that global warming is manmade has already turned. In Feb. 2010, the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believe that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade.” This proportion was down from 41 percent in a similar poll conducted in Nov. 2009.

As I wrote back in March,

In the 1970s, some climatologists actually proposed purposely melting portions of the ice caps in an effort to curb the effects of global cooling (others thought the effects of such an experiment would be too dangerous). Today, global warming enthusiasts claim that these same ice caps are melting on their own, an odd contradiction considering the warnings that were uttered just decades ago.

I am not trying to convince anyone that global warming (now deemed “climate change” to account for record cold spells in various parts of the nation) isn’t happening. Rather, I’m attempting to conclude that the jury is still out and that the media have a responsibility to report on all sides of the debate.

Media Matters is essentially outraged over an editor’s insistence that Fox News’ staff members fulfill their basic journalistic duties. If Dimiero and his coworkers truly believe that media does, indeed, “matter for America,” they’d be calling for a full-fledged look at climate change. Instead, they’re pedaling their typical rhetoric.

Compliant ‘L.A. Times’ Gives Stone Leftist Platform

“You do your homework, you do your research, we always did, whatever you think of my work. Even going back to ‘JFK,’ I’ve always done as much research as we could. And there’s mistakes made, but there’s a lot of truth, you know, as much as we can put into these movies.” – Oliver Stone, as quoted in the L.A. Times.

Irony is what happens when a Hollywood director (Oliver Stone) goes to Latin America, produces a film favorable to one of the most maniacal and politically obnoxious figures in the region (Hugo Chavez), and then returns to the States to tout what he sees as his own astounding “research” skills. In what world would legitimate research on Chavez result in any favorable representation in film or any other venue, for that matter?

Even more concerning than Stone’s own tweaked coverage and perception of the dictator is the L.A. Times’ representation of the film – and shall I say, meager, questioning of its tenants. In an article byTimes journalist Reed Johnson, the paper, in all of its glory, referred to Chavez as a “…former military officer turned democratically elected socialist leader.” Talk about niceties.

While admitting that the film does not provide diverse views on Chavez, the article only mentions “dust-ups” with media outlets opposed to the regime and Chavez’s role in assisting radicals in rallying against Columbia’s government (but these mentions come only in the context of what the film, itself, does not cover).

Sadly, the piece serves as a bullhorn for Stone’s own views on the evils of America and his infatuation with the Venezuelan dictator’s charm. Instead of raising facts and figures from those who would disagree with anti-American rhetoric, the piece does little to provide well-rounded perspective. Johnson writes:

 

In his new documentary “South of the Border,” Oliver Stone is shown warmly embracing Hugo Chavez, nibbling coca leaves with Evo Morales and gently teasing Cristina Elizabeth Fernández de Kirchner about how many pairs of shoes she owns.

These amiable, off-the-cuff snapshots of the presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina, respectively, contrast with the way these left-leaning leaders often are depicted in U.S.”

 

The article makes no real effort to delve into the human rights violations that Chavez champions in Venezuela. And while one can argue that this wasn’t the purpose of the article, Stone is minimally pressed to answer further about why he’s avoided these issues. If the L.A. Times felt it so necessary to provide a platform for Stone’s work, why not also provide a framework through which readers could better understand why many Americans dislike Chavez’s restrictive regime? The U.S. retains a negative view of Chavez with good reason.

Take the following statement from Human Rights Watch (coincidently, not a right-leaning group by any stretch of the imagination):

 

On September 18, we released a report in Caracas that shows how President Hugo Chavez has undermined human rights guarantees in Venezuela. That night, we returned to our hotel and found around twenty Venezuelan security agents, some armed and in military uniform, awaiting us outside our rooms. They were accompanied by a man who announced—with no apparent sense of irony—that he was a government “human rights” official and that we were being expelled from the country.

 

The official reason for their expulsion? “[Violating] the constitution by criticizing the government while on tourist visas.” Ironically, they weren’t even on tourist visas. But this is only one example. One wonders what happens to Venezuelan citizens who dare question Chavez’s authority. Note: The L.A. Times may not be the place to go to collect this information.

And, while the Times would apparently seek to focus, as does Mr. Stone, on the fact that Chavez is “democratically elected,” let’s review the radicalization we’ve seen coming from his administration – violations that the L.A. Times confirms Stone left out of his leftist propaganda.

According to The New York Times, following re-election in 2006…

 

“[Chavez] nationalized electrical companies, asserted government control over oil projects in the Orinoco forests and withdrew from the International Monetary Fund. He also cracked down on television stations that had been critical of him, and proposed a referendum on constitutional changes that would centralize power in the presidency and remove term limits for the post.”

 

Ahh, a whiff of democracy!

Oh, and did I mention that Venezuelan voters democratically turned down his insane referendum? Would it have killed Johnson to merely mention of the constrictive actions that pose concern not only to conservative groups in America, but also to the leftist Human Rights Watch? Probably not. To those completely unfamiliar with Venezuelan politics, this article did little more than promote Stone’s film.

Ironically, Stone – an artist – doesn’t address Chavez’s media restrictions and state-run outlets (apparently love for a dictator of sorts trumps his love for the arts). And the Times, a supposed-democratic tool, also declines to delve into this important detail. Both would have us to believe that the heinousness Chavez inflicts on the citizens of his nation – and on the arts and media – is good old democracy at work. Insane.