Australian Paper: No Criticism of 'Earth Hour' Allowed

It continues. Days after NewsBusters reported that the BBC willingly censored its reporting to fit the agenda of a left-wing environmental activist comes news that reporters at an Australian paper have been forced company-wide to promote climate alarmism by their bosses.

In some positive news for journalistic independence though, it looks like the staffers at the Age newspaper have finally had enough. What's even more surprising is that the Age is a left-wing paper, similar to London's Guardian, that normally has no trouble pursuing agenda-driven coverage. The mandated bias is so ridiculous though, that it was too much for even them.

Our story begins late last month when the Age's parent company, Fairfax Media, teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to help promote Earth Hour, a silly PR campaign to use less or no electricity as a way of "raising awareness" about "climate change."

Fairfax Media's initial effort in support of the idea wasn't too unreasonable; company chief executive Don Churchill sent out a letter asking all employees to turn off all the electricity in their offices at the end of their work day. That's not so bad. Turning off the lights or the computer uses less electricity which means lower power bills for the company. Nothing wrong with that.

It didn't end there, however. Fairfax went way beyond this, especially at the Age. Not only was the Sunday edition of the paper printed one hour later (a completely worthless gesture similar to Google's "blackout" of its home page) the paper's editors instructed their reporters not to write anything negative about the event.

This was apparently too much for the staff who finally snapped at a "volatile" meeting yesterday where editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan tried to rationalize away his paper's deliberate abdication of objectivity. Luckily for the record, the paper's crosstown rival, the Australian, had sources in the meeting:

Some staff were openly hostile towards Jaspan, and at times interjected as he spoke. At a subsequent stop-work meeting, staff passed a resolution saying recent developments had undermined the separation between commercial considerations and editorial independence.

In a statement accompanying the resolution, staff said the Earth Hour partnership placed basic journalistic principles in jeopardy: "Reporters were pressured not to write negative stories and story topics followed a schedule drafted by Earth Hour organisers."

The staff was also angry at Jaspan for printing a letter from Fairfax chairman Ron Walker without disclosing his full name, his position within the company, or his past high-level affiliations with the Australian Liberal Party. That last part is particularly egregious since the letter in question bashes the Libs and promotes Walker's own vision of what the party should be doing.

Disgraceful all around. Where are the American journalists with the guts to expose this kind of behavior in our country? Or are American journalists all too willing to slant their coverage to suit Al Gore's liking?

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013