Row over climate change reporting


By Barry Tucker                    10 November, 2013

How do you report on the issue of climate change? A dispute has broken out between journalism professor Wendy Bacon and News Corp.

For those who don’t know, Ms Bacon is a progressive, former employee of Fairfax Media who accepts climate change, while Rupert Murdoch (majority owner of News Corp) is a climate change denier. In a tweet during the last quarter of 2012, Mr Murdoch advocated investment in non-renewable resources (oil and coal). His employees understand his feelings on the subject.

The row began when the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ) published Sceptical Climate Part 2, a report on news media coverage of climate change, authored by Ms Bacon, last Thursday, 29 October. Ms Bacon wrote an article on the report for The Conversation, published on 1 November.

The ACIJ report found that Australia’s biggest publications The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun (both News Corp publications) are misleading and confusing their readers about scientific findings on climate science. A report I read several months ago said the News Corp media (including TV interests) was more biased than other news media when reporting on climate change.

News media (the bulk of which is commercially owned) appears to be mainly sceptical about climate change or determined to muddy the picture. It is as if industry and commerce does not want to acknowledge the science of climate change or pay the cost of addressing it.

On 5 November, 2013, News Corp’s The Australian responded to Ms Bacon’s article in The Conversation, with a mocking and derogatory article in its Cut & Paste column.

Ms Bacon responded to the Cut & Paste article by writing a letter to the editor, which The Australian did not use. She followed that up with an article in NewMatilda, which dealt with her case on how the climate change debate should be reported by the news media.

The matter is unresolved.