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Reuters' climate change coverage halved under new editor

Reuters' climate change coverage declined by nearly half after managing editor Paul Ingrassia, pictured, a climate change sceptic, joined the agency, a US study of the Reuters file showed on Tuesday.

Media Matters for America, which conducted the study, said the finding lent credence to former climate change correspondent David Fogarty’s claim in a letter to The Baron that a “climate of fear” has gripped the agency.

“In line with claims from Fogarty and The Baron, a survey of coverage in the six months immediately prior to Ingrassia’s appointment compared to an analogous period in 2012 found that Reuters filed 48 percent fewer articles on climate change under the new regime, despite the fact that the latter period featured the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, a continuing fight over the European Union’s proposal to impose a carbon tax on international flights, record heat in the U.S. and other noteworthy developments,” Media Matters for America said. It published a chart, right, showing its findings.

“In the six months before Ingrassia joined Reuters, Fogarty wrote 51 of 675 total articles on climate change (about 8 percent). During a comparable period under Ingrassia, Fogarty wrote only 10 articles on climate change (3 percent of 353 total stories),” Media Matters for America said.

“The vast majority of coverage in both time periods was focused on policy (59 percent and 63 percent, respectively), as opposed to science (11 percent and 12 percent) and primarily quoted politicians, political officials or government officials (43 percent and 41 percent) on climate change,” Media Matters for America said.

Ingrassia joined Reuters in April 2011 as deputy to Stephen Adler, who had been appointed editor-in-chief two months earlier. Ingrassia had previously been a journalist with The Wall Street Journal – where Adler had also worked – and then was president of Dow Jones Newswires. Ingrassia became managing editor of Reuters in April this year and moved to London from New York.

“This year, Reuters’ shift has apparently continued apace,” Media Matters for America said. “An April 2013 article titled ‘Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown,’ later promoted by Drudge Report, claimed that short-term temperature variability ‘has exposed gaps’ in scientists’ understanding of climate change, but neglected to quote any scientists on the issue — or refer to an article filed by the same reporter one week prior, which explained some of the alleged ‘gaps.’”

In response to a 12 July report on The Baron and Fogarty’s letter, Reuters issued a statement last week stating that it “is committed to providing fair and independent coverage of climate change that complies fully with our Trust Principles”. It added: “There has been no change in our editorial policy.”

Media Matters for America said that on 15 July a Reuters story covering new research on sea level rise included disclaimers that one scientist called “unrelated climate skeptics nonsense”.

Media Matters for America describes itself as “a Web-based, not-for-profit, progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media”. It said it searched the Factiva database for Reuters articles on “climate change or global warming” between 19 October 2010 and 11 April 2011, and between 19 April 2012 and 19 October 2012. It included full articles or substantial mentions (more than one paragraph) of climate change or climate policies. ■

Media Matters for America