National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" gave a report November 30 on misleading "green" products, charging companies with "The Six Sins of Greenwashing."
"You may have thought they were environmentally friendly just because the product says so, but some environmentalists think you're being ‘greenwashed,'" said host Steve Inskeep. "Is one of the sins just lying, then, basically?"
Scot Case of the environmental marketing firm TerraChoice conveyed that "the biggest sin [they] found ... was called ‘The Sin of the Hidden Tradeoff' for products that promote a single issue ... but there are a wide variety of environmental considerations."
TerraChoice evaluated 1,018 retail products for their environmental claims and only one was found to be without sin, while the rest were guilty of offenses like "The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils," "The Sin of Fibbing" and "The Sin of No Proof."
No it's not a new brand of cologne, but it sure sounds like it.
Today, November 30, Dan Gainor, BMI's Director appeared on Fox Business to discuss the media's hype of an oncoming recession. Host David Asman began the segment asking, "Has the media emphasized the good along with the bad?"
Gainor responded, "Of course not, we haven't seen a lot of good news...and in fact if you watch the networks they skipped what even the New York Times put on their front page, that the Fed said a recession isn't likely."
There's little the MSM likes more than to report the latest thing that's bad for us. Today's news brings a double-header of doom: night shifts and salt.
First, the AP reports that the UN's World Health Organization will soon list working the night shift "as a 'probable' cause of cancer."
Then Reuters informs us that the Center for Science in the Public Interest, arguing that excessive salt in Americans' diets is a major factor in high blood pressure and increases risk for heart disease, is urging stricter regulation of salt by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As the Christmas shopping season went into full swing in 2005, I sensed that journalists in general have a strong preference for using the term "holiday shopping" instead of "Christmas shopping" when covering business and commerce, but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to "Christmas."
My instincts have been proven correct, as you can see below from the results of three different sets of Google News searches in November and December in each of the last two years (links to last year’s related posts are here, here, and here; 2005's are here, here, and here):
Of course, the expectations game can be frustrating, and we won't know for sure until the actual report is released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. But there appears to be remarkably good economic news ahead. Naturally, it is getting the barest of coverage from an Old Media business press corps that seems intent on talking the economy down.
First, a week ago Monday, MarketWatch's Greg Robb, in an article entitled "Economists think U.S. can dodge recession," said the following (bolds are mine throughout this post): "The economy grew at a 3.9% rate in the third quarter, and many economists expect an upward revision above 4.5% when the government revises the data on Nov. 29."
Then, at MarketWatch.com yesterday, ("Dollar under pressure as credit fears loom"; link requires free registration), reporter Lisa Twaronite got this quote from an industry expert:
For years, NewsBusters and its parent, the Media Research Center, have been reporting on the disparity in economic coverage by mainstream media outlets during the Clinton and Bush administrations.
In the past seven years, economic data that would have been praised when Bill Clinton was in the White House has continually been presented as recessionary, or even depression-like.
With that in mind, CNN's Lou Dobbs was discussing the economy, and, in particular, the recent holiday sales figures with WOR radio's Steve Malzberg Monday. The conservative host asked Dobbs, "If these numbers were the numbers nearing the end of a Clinton administration or a Democrat's administration, wouldn't they be touting it as a wonderful, strong economy?
Old Media reporters have worked themselves into such a lather trying to talk down the economy that you have to wonder if retailers got lulled into believing them.
The Associated Press's report on Black Friday sales by reporter Anne D'Innocenzio went through the normal good news/"yeah, but" routine (bolds are mine throughout).
First, the good news:
The nation's retailers had a robust start to the holiday shopping season, according to results announced Saturday by a national research group that tracks sales at retail outlets across the country.
According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks sales at more than 50,000 retail outlets, total sales rose 8.3 percent to about $10.3 billion on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, compared with $9.5 billion on the same day a year ago. ShopperTrak had expected an increase of no more than 4 percent to 5 percent.
But in bringing out the supposed "bad news," D'Innocenzio may have inadvertently exposed a retailer miscalculation:
*****Update at end of post includes detailed response to unhappy e-mail messages concerning this subject.
As someone that has done a lot of economic writing and financial media analysis, I'm used to gloom and doom from journalists.
However, Saturday's Associated Press article concerning the credit crunch and how it's impacting the mortgage market could be the worst example of economic and financial misreporting and exaggeration I've seen since the press universally forecast an economic downturn after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
Entitled "Have We Seen the Worst of the Mortgage Crisis," Joe Bel Bruno's piece actually suggested that a depression could be looming, and that housing prices in some areas could decline by 40 percent (emphasis added):
For years one of the great unanswered questions along Main and Wall streets has been why, in the midst of 24 consecutive quarters of uninterrupted growth, polls have regularly found Americans sour about the economy.
On Tuesday, a battle between the New York Times liberal economics columnist Paul Krugman and WOR radio's Steve Malzberg offered a clue.
In fact, after 16 minutes of sparring on subjects from healthcare to the Iraq war, a truly inconvenient truth became evident concerning the left's continued bearishness since the economy emerged from recession in the fourth quarter of 2001: too many folks listen to people like Krugman.
As a perfect illustration of just how separated this man, and anybody who reads him, are from reality, when Malzberg asked Krugman where he'd seek medical treatment if he was really ill, the Times columnist said (16 minute long audio link available here):
Continuing the sky-is-falling mantra about lead laden toys, on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Hannah Storm asked Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) spokeswoman, Julie Vallese:
...you are standing there, Julie, among a whole group of toys, 61 recalls, a third of those because of lead paint. Why don't you tell us as parents, why we just shouldn't buy books and clothes and pets this Christmas? Why even buy toys?
Of course that followed Julie Chen’s assertion on October 31 that Halloween and Christmas had been "ruined" because of the CPSC. It also complimented Lesley Stahl’s rant against the fast food industry on Sunday’s "60 Minutes." Not to be out done in alarmism, Storm began the segment by warning, "Millions of toys tainted with lead have been recalled so far this year, so it's tough to know what toys are actually safe to buy this holiday season."
‘Tis the season for lackluster holiday sales and prosperous debt collectors. Fa la la la la, la la la la...
Everything is a little downbeat according to the economic news leading into the holiday shopping season reported on the November 18 "CBS Evening News" - that is of course unless you're in the debt business.
"It happens to be pretty good," said Brandon Bradshaw about this shopping season. "So, we're one of the lucky ones."
But, CBS Correspondent Randall Pinkston trotted him out for a reason.
"Brandon Bradshaw's business? Debt collection," concluded Pinkston. "Russ, retailers are counting on shoppers like him because this is the make-or-break season. Fourth quarter - stores depend on holiday shoppers for 25 to 40 percent of their annual profits."
On Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," anchor Lesley Stahl began a segment on calorie labeling for fast food by making this alarmist proclamation: "Obesity rates continue to spiral out of control in this country and nutritionists say one main reason is how dependent we've become on eating out." Enter the big government hero:
Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden is in charge of regulating New York City's $11 billion restaurant market...the chains are up against a formidable foe, because Frieden has a record of making big industry bend to his will. He's the one who forced smoking out of city bars and artery-clogging trans fats out of city restaurants. Both those bans spread nationwide, which is also happening with his new crusade.
Frieden’s latest "crusade" is to force big fast food chains nationwide to label the calories of all of their products, which were exempt from doing so. As Stahl explained, "Now, one of the most powerful health officials in the country wants to change that by forcing chain restaurants like McDonald's and Wendy's to spell out exactly how fattening their food is right when you decide what to order."
The Anchoress, a three-time Weblog Awards finalist and 2007 Catholic Blog Awards Winner (congratulations!) in the Best Political/Social Commentary category (scroll down at link to see it), delivered a cold but necessary shower earlier this evening to those of us who are tempted to exaggerate or overstate the impact New Media is having on most Americans.
I'll bet that a lot of us can relay similar stories to the ones she referred to in her very perceptive post ("Good news leaks past the embargo on good news…"; links that contradict the Old Media-driven beliefs described and bolds/italics were included in her original):
Unfortunately, it is still true that until a new president is installed in the WH, preferably one with a D after the name, only the downsides are newsworthy, and that holds true in every subject. Every subject. My elderly family members are convinced that everything, everywhere, is going to hell, and they are fretful and terrified. They think everyone is out of work, the economy is in a recession, the war in Iraq is lost and there are no real terrorist threats - that’s just made-up stuff. They’re sure America is dying. They are sure the world is headed for famine. They are depressed and do not want to send out Christmas cards, because how can you do that when so much is bad in the world?
In order to make food choices for her constituents, Perry wants to ban new fast-food restaurants from opening in the South L.A. district for at least a year.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta ate up the plan for regulatory meddling saying on "American Morning" November 16, "[A]lthough obesity may not be eliminated entirely, studies show zoning laws are a good first step to fighting the problem."
Business & Media Institute director Dan Gainor appeared on ‘Fox Business Live' November 15 to discuss the media's focus on the negative parts of the economy. Two of the networks, NBC and CBS led with positive news of the year's second best day of the year, but then focused on high gas prices this week.
"It goes beyond ‘it bleeds, it leads.' This is a consistent theme we've been watching for several years...Any time you have any sort of negative news they hype that and any sort of positive news, they undercut it," said Gainor.
In an Andy Rooneyesque rant about how his latest movie-going experience "left much to be desired," CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller hinted he wouldn't mind seeing liberal consumers groups tackle hefty snack prices at the nation's movie theaters. He even suggested the short titles for two bills Congress could draft on that front.
From Knoller's November 12 Couric & Co. blog post (emphasis mine):
The fact is, most movie theaters are glorified snack bars. On average, they keep only 50% or less of the ticket price, far less for blockbusters in their opening weeks. Much of a theater’s profit comes from the concession stand.
Regal, one of the nation’s largest multiplex chains, reported the 3rd quarter profit margin at its snack bars exceeded 86%.
And the markup – especially on popcorn – is eye-popping. The Los Angeles Times last year calculated that just $30 of raw popcorn can translate into as much as $3,000 in sales at the snack bar.
That sounds like a markup that would make the oil industry blush.
In a move that must be causing Excedrin headaches at the New York Times and other Old Media outlets, USA Today reports that the Wall Street Journal's new owner expects to tear down its subscription wall:
News Corp. (NWS) Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday he intends to make access to The Wall Street Journal's website free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue.
"We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers), having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth," Murdoch said.
News Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire Dow Jones (DJ), and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 in New York.
Murdoch said he believes that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.
That sounds like a weird question, but apparently CNN’s “American Morning” thinks eating your iPhone or earphone cord is a possibility.
In a segment with an on-screen caption – “IPOD & IPHONE DANGER – CAN THEY HURT YOU?” – CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that the cord connecting the earbuds to your iPod contain phthalates, according to the litigious Center for Environmental Health.
Phthalates are a substance often used for increasing the flexibility of plastics, but according to an article on macnn.com, a Web site devoted to news on Apple products, phthalates “may hinder the sexual development of mammals.”
Yesterday during the 7 p.m. hour of FBN’s “America’s Nightly Scoreboard” theBusiness and Media Institute’s Director Dan Gainor went head to head with John Coifman of the Natural Resources Defense Council. The topic of discussion was “business going green” and whether or not it can put businesses in the red. The first part of the video can be seen below.
David Asman asked Gainor, “What’s wrong with going green?”
In an article counseling readers to cancel the pity party the Washington Post wants to throw for "Young Altruists In the Crowded Field of Public Interest," Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings nails it, and in the process hammers home a reality that Old Media reporters and pundits never seem to comprehend (links were in original post):
..... Who is it that really changes the world, and for the better?
I would argue that it is the people like Bill Gates, or Henry Ford, or Thomas Edison, or the Wright brothers, who have a much larger and more beneficial effect on the world than people who "want to make a difference."
Author and political reporter Timothy Carney has an interesting item this morning in the Washington Examiner about how Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) practically gets campaign contribution kickbacks from her support for subsidies to the drug industry for the so-called emergency contraceptive pill Plan B. Emphasis mine. (h/t James Joyner):
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., portrays herself as a scourge of the pharmaceutical industry, but she has shown that she’s willing to help a drugmaker if that’s what it takes to profit Planned Parenthood, her indispensable political ally.
Clinton’s campaign Web site touts that she has “battled the big drug companies.” Yet she has sponsored many bills that would directly subsidize Barr Laboratories, maker of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B, which also functions as an abortifacient. Thanks to a deal cut between Barr and Planned Parenthood, those taxpayer subsidies will yield generous profits for the pro-choice group that every four years spends millions trying to elect a Democrat to the White House.
Like the latest runway trend, "green is the new black" according to the media. At least where business is concerned. But it turns out that companies are finding "going green" is an easy way to put themselves in the red.
Back in 2003 FedEx announced it would begin switching to hybrid trucks and won an award from the Environmental Protection Agency, but at $70,000 more per truck the costs got in the way. Four years later, the company has fewer than 100 hybrid trucks, according to the October 29 BusinessWeek.
Other companies like PepsiCo and Caterpillar could face problems with the bottom line because of their support for more government regulation, said Steve Milloy on CNBC's "Street Signs" October 12.
Over the last year, Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide (NYSE:CFC), decided to periodically sell some of the stock he owns in the company he co-founded 40 years ago and what is now the nation's largest mortgage lender – part of a prearranged measure known as a 10b5-1 trading plan. This was all done to prepare him for his December 2009 retirement date.
Despite his upcoming retirement, that drew the ire of some liberal pro-union groups and CBS’s Anthony Mason, whereas anyone defending his decision to sell his stock was not found in Mason’s report.
Why is it that a page from Katie Couric's "Notebook" is often cribbed from the left-wing playbook? [Check here for a real eye-roller from June 2007]
In her October 25 "Notebook" item at her Couric & Co. blog, the "CBS Evening News" anchor parroted the complaints of a left-wing group that finds scandalous the practice of doctors getting freebies from pharmaceutical companies.:
We all know the saying, 'there's no such thing as a free lunch,' but not if you're a doctor. Every year drug makers spend almost $7 billion in lunches, dinners, travel fees and gifts to doctors. That's on top of the estimated $18 billion in free drug samples they give them. We talked with Rob Restuccia of the Prescription Project, which studies potential conflicts of interest between drug makers and doctors. He says there's a high correlation between the prescribing of particular drugs and gifts to those physicians...
It may be a bitter pill for some drug companies but when doctors receive free lunches, it's their patients who often pay the price.
Within his article, Mufson brought in advertising critic and NPR host who injected his own political beliefs about oil companies like Chevron (emphasis mine):
"What these ads, like all oil company ads, do is accentuate the positive and don't mention the venality, the environmental impact and overarching greed that is at the bottom of their businesses," said Bob Garfield, a TV ad critic for Advertising Age.
There's a fabulous column by Ed Driscoll (HT to NixGuy in an e-mail) about the evolution of media and reporting from the invention of radio to our current circumstances.
It's the title of Driscoll's work, "Atlas Mugged: How a Gang of Scrappy, Individual Bloggers Broke the Stranglehold of the Mainstream Media," that misses the mark a bit.
Ed has the "stranglehold" part nailed:
By the early 1970s, mass media had reached its zenith (if you’ll pardon the pun). Most Americans were getting their news from one of three TV networks’ half-hour nightly broadcasts. With the exception of New York, most big cities had only one or two primary newspapers. And no matter what a modern newspaper’s lineage, by and large its articles, except for local issues, came from global wire services like the Associated Press or Reuters; it took its editorial lead from the New York Times; and it claimed to be impartial (while usually failing miserably).