Thursday, November 5, 2009

Newsweek and Big Oil Front Group Host Climate Conferences

Now this is downright strange (and frightening!).

According to Energy & Environment News and Climate Progress, Newsweek and our favorite Big Oil front group the American Petroleum Institute have been co-hosting expert discussion panels. Because it spends so heavily to advertise in Newsweek, API has apparently earned the right to have its president sit on expert panels that include members of Congress. According to E&E News (per Climate Progress):
Newsweek since 2007 has sold advertising packages to the oil industry’s biggest influence group that included the right to co-host forums on energy issues, including two where members of Congress sat side-by-side on panels with the association’s president.

Newsweek and API have teamed on four forums so far and are planning another — “Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?” — for Dec. 1, when the Senate could be holding a floor debate on climate legislation. An invitation sent yesterday to lawmakers’ offices said Gerard again would be a panelist and that requests to speak were “currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.” Lawmakers receiving invitations included Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
That would be the same American Petroleum Institute that's spending millions to run ads attacking clean energy and climate legislation, and which this summer was embarrassed by the leaking of an internal memo from API President Jack Gerard detailing the group's strategy to manufacture grassroots "opposition" to reform.

It's an arrangement that has ethics watchdogs in the journalism field up in arms.
“You’re selling access,” said Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. “Newsweek is using its reputation as a great news organization to convene these officeholders to talk about public policy. Then it’s renting out a space at the table for one of its customers who would not be at the table if not for giving money to Newsweek.”
The panels themselves could use a little balance work:
Newsweek has had the co-presentation partnerships with advertisers since at least 2003, Block said. The relationship with API started in May 2007, when API and the magazine teamed up for a forum called “Progress on Energy Legislation in the 110th Congress.” At that forum, like the one earlier this year, API’s president had the stage along with members of Congress. Panelists were then-API President Red Cavaney, Rep. Jim Matheson (R-Utah), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and a Newsweek representative.
And pundits wonder why Americans have so little faith in the media!

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