11/01/2020

(AU) News Corp Employee Lashes Climate 'Misinformation' In Bushfire Coverage With Blistering Email

The Guardian

Senior employee’s reply-all email to executive chairman calls the company’s coverage ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous’
 A News Corp employee has criticised the company’s bushfire coverage for failing to acknowledge the contribution of climate change. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP 
A senior News Corp employee has accused the company of “misinformation” and diverting attention from climate change during the bushfire crisis in an explosive all-staff email addressed to executive chairman Michael Miller.
The email accuses News Corp papers, including the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun, of misrepresenting facts and spreading misinformation to focus on arson as the cause of the bushfires, rather than climate change.
The email was penned by a senior member of News Corp’s commercial arm in response to an all-staff email from Miller detailing the leave arrangements available to staff and announcing other bushfire-related initiatives.
“This does not offset the impact News Corp reporting has had over the last few weeks,” the employee wrote. “I have been severely impacted by the coverage of News Corp publications in relation to the fires, in particular the misinformation campaign that has tried to divert attention away from the real issue which is climate change to rather focus on arson (including misrepresenting facts).
“I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies. The reporting I have witnessed in the Australian, the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun is not only irresponsible, but dangerous and damaging to our communities and beautiful planet that needs us more than ever now to acknowledge the destruction we have caused and start doing something about it.”
The email landed in the inbox of all News Corp staff, and was leaked to the Guardian by multiple sources, but not the author.
Sources say the email has since been deleted from News Corp inboxes.
News Corp papers have been accused of placing undue emphasis on issues such as arson and hazard reduction in a way that diverts attention from climate change’s role in creating longer, more severe fire seasons.
That includes in editorials that argued no climate policy change would stop the current bushfires, and a perceived emphasis on inadequate hazard reduction and arson as causes.
News Corp has been approached for comment.
The company has previously defended its coverage of climate change and the current bushfires.
It told the New York Times this week that its coverage had “recognised Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it”.
“The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”
The Australian has published pieces making clear the link between climate change and the bushfires, including a piece by Jack the Insider, which stated: “It is true that arson and acts of criminal stupidity are common reasons for the ignition of fires. We need to acknowledge that, understand it and take steps to prevent it.”
“But we also need to appreciate that while climate change doesn’t start fires, it is the fundamental reason six million hectares and counting of this country have been ravaged by fire.”
But other pieces have tended to exaggerate the role arson played in the current bushfire season.
This week, the Australian reported that 183 arsonists had been arrested during the current bushfire season. The figure was the sum of data from various states and territories. But it wrongly characterised figures from a number of states, some of which were 12-month totals, and included statistics from other bushfire-related offences, like contravening a total fire ban.
That report was spread globally, including by Donald Trump Jr and conspiracy theorist website InfoWars, which said it undermined “the media and celebrities” who “continue to blame ‘climate change’ for the disaster”.

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