the audit

Audit Notes: WSJ forgets climate change, Reuters results, Murdoch hides

A story on the record heat wave omits global warming
August 10, 2012

The Wall Street Journal writes 640 words on how last month was the hottest July on record—and fails to mention anything about man-made climate change.

Here’s its explanation for the record heat:

Behind the record temperatures was a dome of high pressure over the center of the country, which combined with a powerful drought to create the scorching temperatures, said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

It’s hard to imagine a climate scientist like Crouch wouldn’t mention something about climate change very likely being a significant factor in such a record. Indeed he mentioned it to the AP, which quoted him on it:

“This would not have happened in the absence of human-caused climate change,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.

(Jake) Crouch and Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said what’s happening is a double whammy of weather and climate change. They point to long-term higher night temperatures from global warming and the short-term effect of localized heat and drought that spike daytime temperatures.

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The AP’s good coverage shows just clearly how bad the Journal‘s is.

— Reuters gets more results from its outstanding investigation of Chesapeake Energy, reporting that the Justice Department has launched an antitrust investigation into the drilling giant.

Reuters reported in June on emails that showed awfully close coordination between Chesapeake and a primary competitor scheming to lower drilling-rights bids.

The DOJ probe shows that it’s following Reuters’s reporting on Chesapeake closely:

The Justice Department is “moving criminally,” said Darren Bush, a former antitrust attorney for the Department of Justice and a professor of antitrust law at the University of Houston. “They are working their way through the grand jury process to potentially serve up indictments.”

Chesapeake’s disclosure indicates the Justice Department has moved swiftly on the matter. Reuters published its story on June 25. Just four days later, on June 29, the subpoena was served on Chesapeake, according to the company’s quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This is one of the better corporate investigations we’ve seen in a long time.

— Earnings reports are almost invariably boring, but Bloomberg BusinessWeek‘s Diane Brady has a terrific take on News Corporation’s miserable quarter, emphasizing that Rupert Murdoch—yet again—didn’t even bother to take part in the conference call:

Rupert Murdoch doesn’t like to hang out with losers. If that wasn’t obvious in June, when the News Corp. chief said he’d split his empire and stick to running his robust entertainment arm, it became clear in the Aug. 8 earnings call. The media titan didn’t even show up to explain the company’s bad news—its $1.6 billion loss, the $8.4 billion in revenue that fell short of expectations, the $2.8 billion writedown, and $57 million in legal costs. Why should he? After all, the main culprit was publishing, the business that has brought such misery into his home this year. That’s where he has had to deal with such headaches as legal costs, reputation hits, police probes, bribery allegations, and hacking scandals, not to mention a tough ad environment…

Yet some don’t seem to get that the media mogul has moved on. On Aug. 7, the Church of England sold its entire £1.9 million stake, explaining on its website that the Church’s ethical investment body “does not feel that the company has brought about sufficient change.” Scotland Yard arrested a journalist at The Sun, another Murdoch-owned tabloid, and a police officer. That brings the tally to 70 arrests so far from its probes of payoffs, phone-hacking, obstruction of justice, and other alleged crimes that may include illegal access to medical records. Those are activities so foreign to the ears of most chief executives that similar examples are inevitably tough to recall. For News Corp.’s shareholders, employees, and the hundreds of people so far identified as probable targets of such activities, it’s the sort of thing they’ll never forget.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR’s business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.