Media Bias Continues on Environmental Issues

Published October 1, 1997

Representatives of the establishment media, particularly television reporters, show little inclination to introduce balance in their coverage of environment issues, according to a Virginia-based media watchdog group.

In its monthly publication MediaNomics, the Media Research Center has documented several egregious examples of editorial commentary masquerading as reporting in the three major networks’ handling of EPA’s controversial new clean air standards.

“Reporters are simply assuming that the science supports the Clinton administration’s call for new regulations, despite strong evidence to the contrary,” MediaNomics observes. “The result: the public is hearing about this debate in terms of health vs. money.”

John Roberts’ report on the June 25 “CBS Evening News” was typical. “On one side, the Environmental Protection Agency is pushing implementation of tougher air quality standards,” Roberts said. “On the other side, economic officials argue the new limits would be a burden on business.” According to ABC’s Bob Zelnick, on a June 16 “Good Morning America,” the new standards are part of EPA’s “battle against asthma and other sometimes fatal respiratory diseases,” but at the same time big city mayors “fear tough new standards will drive existing businesses away.”

On the June 25 “CBS Evening News,” Rita Braver followed the same pattern, according to MediaNomics, contending that “the president acted despite a multi-million dollar campaign against the new regulations by utilities, the oil industry, auto manufacturers, and other businesses” and reporting uncritically the highly debatable administration claim that the new rules would save 15,000 lives every year and improve the health of 125 million Americans.

While network reporters have been quick to parrot administration claims on the new standards, environmentalists have been accorded red-carpet treatment on the air. Thus, ABC’s Anderson Cooper, in what MediaNomics termed a “fawning” June 22 “World News Tonight” interview with Adam Werbach of the Sierra Club, failed to challenge the environmental lobbyist on the questionable science behind the standards, “and didn’t even flinch when Werbach made the preposterous statement that the new rules would increase worker productivity.”

Noting that EPA’s own Clean Air Science Advisory Committee (CASAC) and the White House’s Office of Science and Technology had raised serious doubts about the proposed standards, MediaNomics asks, “is too much to ask networks to be just a little skeptical, too?”

PF: For more information, see the Media Research Center’s two-page report, “Flat Earth Environmental Reporting.” Call PolicyFax at 847/202-4888 and request document #2352101.