The Secret Partnership Fueling Climate Hawk Journalism

Wealthy liberal foundations have been seeking to have influence on media coverage of energy and environmental matters by funding workshops, courses, and seminars for journalists focused on climate change – and some of the world’s most elite universities are happy to oblige.

An analysis of funding initiatives led by some of America’s biggest private foundations shows several major left-of-center entities funding this training for climate journalists at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the University of Southern California. [emphasis, links added]

In addition, Britain’s prestigious Oxford University is involved in a similar endeavor across the Atlantic.

The news comes two years after the announcement by the Associated Press of its hiring of twenty climate journalists using $8 million in grants received from the same type of foundations to propel more climate journalism.

After the infusion of funding, AP journalists appeared to forgo seeking comment from the fossil fuels industry on stories that affected them.

The organization Covering Climate Now is a major driver of climate-related news, reportedly encompassingMore than 500 news and media outlets [that] partner with the organization, which represents an audience of 2 billion people in 57 countries. Its partners include big names like ABC News, CBS News, Reuters, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, and The San Francisco Chronicle.”

NBC News and Bloomberg are also partners, and just recently, Portland’s KGW News was added as a partner.

Covering Climate Now was founded by the Columbia Journalism Review – an initiative of Ivy League Columbia University’s journalism school – in partnership with the far-left publication The Nation.

Who funds it? Actions@EBMF, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Michaux Family Foundation, One Earth Fund, Park Foundation, Rockefeller Family & Associates, Rockefeller Family Fund, Schumann Media Center, Taylor Family Charitable Fund, and Wayne Crookes.

Notably, Rockefeller money was also behind the AP climate journalism initiative.

Since Covering Climate Now and Columbia’s initiative was put in place, ABC, CBS, and Reuters have run a flurry of climate change-focused stories that seem designed to draw in non-climate hawks and amplify their concern about the issue by focusing on subjects of interest to extremely “average” news consumers, such as food, children’s mental health … even Christmas trees.

ABC has leaned into the trend especially hard, in the last few months running these headlines:

Youth at risk for mental health issues due to climate change, study shows

Climate change raises concerns for future of marathons and runner safety: Analysis

Teen survivor of Tubbs Fire sounds alarm on mental health effects of climate change

Climate change could soon make these staple Thanksgiving dishes more scarce

Climate change could soon affect the taste of beer, new study says

The “Tubbs Fire” story was co-authored by Stephanie Epps, whose climate coverage is favorably cited by the group here on their “tips” page.

The Thanksgiving food story was doubly appealing for leftist media, both blaming climate change for an immediate concern while letting Bidenflation off the hook. Efficiency is, after all, a watchword of the genre.

But the beer story was a real hit, and at least one other mass media “partner” news organization ran with it as other non-partners picked it up.

Here was CBS’s headline: Warming planet’s cold beer supply threatened by climate strain on hops, barley, water.

You’ve got to give the Greta Thunberg fans of the world credit on this one; there may be no better way to make your average middle-aged American care about climate change more than raising the alert level for beer. Was that a Simpsons episode once? Or does it just seem like it could be?

Also since news first broke of Covering Climate Now and Columbia’s initiative, CBS has run with this headline:

World’s richest 1% emitting enough carbon to cause heat-related deaths for 1.3 million people, report finds.

While partner Reuters ran with this:

London underprepared for deadly climate change risks, report warns.

A Brit with whom I spoke for this piece who lived in London during the infamous 2022 heat wave quipped that the biggest reason climate change could prove deadly there is that precious little housing across the city is equipped with air conditioning – so a failure to adapt to a changing climate appears to be the major problem.

But Reuters has also really pinned the tail on the “cover climate change impacting things that even climate change deniers love” donkey. In December, they ran this piece: Climate change threatens Hungary’s Christmas trees.

Covering Climate Now has also touted partner pieces arguing that “massive programmes of green public investment would be the most cost-effective way both to revive virus-hit economies and strike a decisive blow against climate change,” talking up fracking’s alleged endangering of seniors sheltering in place during COVID and Americans’ purported responsibility for Amazon rainforest deforestation – featuring Leonardo DiCaprio (because why not).

And this story about opposition to renewable energy in America’s heartland was done by ABC in full collaboration with Covering Climate Now. The story effectively blames Donald Trump for the rancorous debate:

The opposition often begins with a gut-level fear that solar or wind power is going to harm the look and feel of home, and then gets supercharged as people read and repeat talking points popularized by Donald Trump and others about how renewable energy is unreliable and dangerous.

This is not to say that all the opponents are Republicans and that all the talking points are incorrect, only that there is a partisan sheen and a dearth of fact-checking. And the tone of the debate often reflects the way Trump has changed what’s acceptable public discourse, with attacks that are more personal.

Perhaps this is all being spawned through the Covering Climate Now and Columbia initiative, but since Harvard has been in the news plenty lately, it is worth noting that as far back as 2019, through the Neiman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard hosted a workshop telling journalists how they should cover climate change – a workshop funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Meanwhile, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Climate Journalism and Communication operates with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Beedie Foundation, the Manaaki Foundation, and Vere Initiatives.

And in the U.K., the Oxford Climate Journalism Network was founded in 2021 with a grant from the European Climate Foundation and then later funded by a grant from the Laudes Foundation.

OCJN provides online courses for journalists, a leadership program for editors and newsroom managers, a fellowship program for study at Oxford, and academic research.

OCJN states, “Every story is a climate story. Our network supports reporters and editors who want to make the climate crisis a central element of their journalism.

For what it’s worth, it’s not just the most elite institutions in on the action. In the Upper Midwest, the Spartans are too, with Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism having been founded with a grant from the Knight Foundation.

The Knight Center recently received $150,000 from the Mott Foundation to work on DEI issues within environmental journalism.

As you read climate news, all of this is worth bearing in mind.

Facts are facts. Science is science. But journalism should be journalism, too, not activism.

When you have politically invested and motivated entities and activists driving an entire major policy area’s news coverage – or if not driving it, certainly attempting to have a hand on the wheel – you have to ask about the objectivity and mission.

Journalism and reporting – our world increasingly treats them as commodities and platforms, and the public is growing more accustomed to this.

Climate reporting is an area where it’s easy to see. But what about areas where it’s not so easy? That’s why the principle is so important. So you can trust it no matter how hot – or warm – the topic.

Read rest at RealClearPolitics

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