Newsweek Is Neck Deep in Oil & Conflicts

Blue darts on red targetTPM Muckraker has exposed the fact that Newsweek is teaming up with the American Petroleum Institute (API) to host a "briefing" for Members of Congress on climate and energy policy. The briefing is timed to coincide with, surprise, the Senate getting ready to take up climate and energy policy in advance of next month's COP15 world conference on global warming policy.

API's Lobbying Is Up and Against Slowing Global Warming

According to TPM, API has already spent $3.9 million directly lobbying in the first part of this year, primarily influence "cap-and-trade" legislation regulating the use of "carbon credits" or pollution emission credits, as well as on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. (During the Bush administration, API spent only about $3 to $4 million a year on directly lobbying Congress.) But, according to Guidestar, API (a registered non-profit) has revenues of around $200 million a year, primarily from oil companies, as of the last public report in 2007. And, it spent over $70 million on advertising that year alone.

Surprise: API Is a Big Advertiser for Newsweek

API is one of the top advertisers in Newsweek, which has had big cuts in its newsroom due in part to declining ad revenues which totaled $96 million during the first half of this year (the portion attributable to API is not reported). Newsweek told TPM it had offered its top 20-30 advertisers an opportunity to co-host panels for outreach to legislators, but as TPM noted "most don't have a single issue focus that lends itself to an event in the way the oil lobby does."

Advertiser and Astroturf Funder Jack Gerard, the Father of the "Energy Citizens," Gets the Spotlight

The Newsweek salon for Members of Congress on climate will feature the API's Jack Gerard, who makes about $2 million a year in salary and deferred compensation for being Big Oil's go-to guy in DC. Gerard, who previously headed the American Chemistry Council, gained new notoriety this summer after Greenpeace publicized a memo, which is attached down below, that he sent to oil companies mapping out a plan to create astroturf, or what I call "cash-roots," rallies. I'm sure you remember the slick company-produced signs and t-shirts at these manufactured events where industry employees were bused in to "citizen rallies" against anti-global warming legislation, as with the self-declared "energy citizens." As TPM's Zachary Roth noted, Newsweek did report on that as an example of "how astroturfing is taking over local activism."


Newsweek Suddenly Buys into Big Oil Green-Washing

But, as Roth pointed out: "[R]ecently, the magazine has gone easier on the oil industry. In September, Newsweek ran a story by Newsweek International editor Rana Foroohar entitled "Big Oil Goes Green For Real," which infuriated environmentalists by asserting that oil industry investments in alternative energy were no longer just green-washing, but rather were 'the real deal.'"

Newsweek's Selling Out Makes It Worth Less and Less

Despite this, Newsweek said it separates its reporting from its advertising. It is difficult to believe this line is impervious when it publishes puff pieces like the ]]green-washing]] bit, which must have made its big advertiser very happy, and when the magazine lends its name to a briefing by Big Oil for Members of Congress. But, maybe its name is just worth less and less, at least when it comes to its claim of objectivity. Though, I must admit, I've never been a big fan of this periodical, even before these revelations.

So, one question is, as Mike Smith at put it: "Why Is Newsweek Lobbying for the Oil Industry?" We all know it's for the money, of course. And, we can expect more of this to come, as corporate media looks for new ways to please the advertisers that pay the bills and to appease Wall Street's relentless quest for profits. Just another reason we need to rein in the big corporations and the not-for-profit industry fronts they pass their profits through.

Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Plain text icon APIemailonAstroturf.txt0 bytes
Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”