Demand Unbiased Reporting on Fossil Fuels

Wall Street Journal building

Target: Gerard Baker, Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal

Goal: Demand that the Wall Street Journal disclose sources’ funding ties in its coverage of climate and energy issues

The Wall Street Journal has the widest circulation of any paper in the United States. In its coverage of energy and climate-related issues, however, the paper strays far from objective reporting. Fossil fuel-funded think tanks, lobbyists and advocacy groups are often cited as authorities in such stories, and given ample space to voice their opinions on green energy–yet their funding bias is rarely ever disclosed. This gives readers a false sense of fairness, and furthers the spread of climate misinformation.

Elliot Negin, Director of News & Commentary for the Union of Concerned Scientists, published a six-part series on “Unreliable Sources,” detailing the problem. While all eight leading news organizations he studied frequently failed to disclose bias, the Wall Street Journal had the worst track record of all. For example, between 2011-12, the Wall Street Journal featured 10 opinion pieces on climate and energy by Robert Bryce, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute. In one column, Bryce made false claims about the cost of wind energy to ratepayers, citing his own debunked study. While the Manhattan Institute has received more than $2 million in donations from oil companies and pro-industry groups, Bryce’s ties to fossil fuels were never mentioned.

Readers expect more from the Wall Street Journal. The paper’s dependence on biased sources erodes its credibility and pollutes the national discourse on energy independence. Demand that the paper give equal weight in its coverage to reputable climate scientists, and disclose its sources’ relevant financial ties.


Dear Mr. Baker,

The Wall Street Journal can claim the title of most-read paper in America. Unfortunately, it also has one of the worst track records for disclosing the financial ties of its fossil fuel-funded sources when citing them in columns, articles and opinion pieces. This lack of honesty in reporting is by no means unique to the Wall Street Journal, however a survey of the paper’s climate and energy coverage between 2011-12 found that the funding bias of “industry-financed think tanks and advocacy groups” was mentioned only 5% of the time.

Devoting space in your paper to pro-oil think tanks providing false information on green energy–as Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute did in May, 2012–is misleading at best. Giving more weight in the discussion to fossil fuel proponents than to respected climate scientists skews the debate, ignores the facts, and erodes the Wall Street Journal’s credibility as a legitimate news outlet.

I call on you as Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal to commit to more accurate reporting on issues of climate and energy policy. Uphold the integrity of your paper, and disclose relevant financial and industry ties when citing lobbyists, think tanks, and advocacy groups.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: PumpkinSky via Wikimedia

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