NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Environmental Reporting Remains Mixed

August 28, 2003

A lot of environmental reporting -- which covers questions of science and regulatory policy -- is blatantly biased and uncritical, says Steven Hayward (American Enterprise Institute). While industry is viewed skeptically by many reporters, the claims of environmental advocacy groups are often taken at face value.

Hayward points out that both industry groups and environmental groups donate money to political campaigns (and receive federal funds) but many self-identified "public interest" groups are never questioned on their funding sources. He cites several examples of egregiously biased reporting:

  • Many newspapers report on the American Lung Association's annual air quality survey, which features failing grades on air quality for cities across the United States, but fail to note that air quality in most locations has improved over the last 10 years.
  • A May 2002 New Yorker article criticized the Bush administration for adopting new regulations on the mining industry that environmentalists didn't like but failed to note that they were developed during the Clinton administration.
  • Washington Post reporter Michael Grunwald carefully detailed the history of the Florida Everglades in a June 2002 story and then wrote about the pros and cons (like the potential $80 billion price tag) of a restoration project.
  • A New York Times piece noted that cleanup trucks idling at Ground Zero were responsible for more air pollution than the collapse of the World Trade Center itself.
  • An Associated Press article said that up to 65 percent of ozone-forming chemicals may come from trees rather than industrial sources.

Hayward says that news reporters must stop blindly accepting the assertions of environmental groups without further fact-checking.

Source: Steven Hayward, "Mixed Atmosphere," American Enterprise, July/August 2003, American Enterprise Institute.


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