Liberal media biases charged back into the public conversation this week. From all over, commentators slammed the mainstream press for ignoring the infamous Gosnell child murder case. In other obvious bias news Columbia Journalism Review, a publication of Columbia University, slapped down a respected television news magazine for pushing an agenda based on “insufficient data and unsupported assumptions."
As described by CJR, CBS's 60 Minutes used unsavory editing techniques for the Scott Pelley story "Amazon Crude." They used video of places and snippets of expert interviews to support a story that Texaco recklessly abused and endangered the environment of Ecuador. Chevron Corporation, currently the ninth largest oil producer in the world, purchased Texaco in October 2000, accepting its assets and liabilities. Should Texaco have damaged Ecuadorian property, they would be responsible.
Reports and analysis have proved that the CBS newsmagazine strayed far from objective or even competent reporting. CJR said:
Chevron’s beef against 60 Minutes is that the news magazine
unfairly implied that Chevron was responsible for sites that actually
were Petroecuador’s problem. And our Martha Hamilton found the oil giant
had a point. Among other things, she found, the segment began by
showing a polluted well owned by a local resident, Manuel Salinas, near a
drilling site that wasn’t Chevron’s responsibility to clean in the
On the show, one of the main on-camera experts, Douglas Beltman of Stratus Consulting
of Boulder, Colo., was shown denouncing the behavior of Chevron’s
predecessor, Texaco, saying, among other things, “It’s a disgrace. They
treated Ecuador like a trash heap.”
Former CBS reporter and media expert Bernard Goldberg wrote in his 2002 book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News that in his experience, CBS did not usually intentionally inject bias. He claimed that bias there came from the liberal-left orientation of the newsroom. Since everyone there was liberal or left wing, they had no balance. They saw their orientation as centrist and reported as such.
This particular piece, however, seems to show a reporter who has not nailed down the thesis of his story. So they pressure experts in interviews, use film clips that do not match the narration, and go well beyond producing a product that could merely be dismissed as sloppy.
Why was the story stretched to such lengths as to threaten the show's credibility?
The narrative is an old one. Big bad American company trashes Third World nation. Grab and go. Chevron was supposed to be established in public perception as a dastardly company with no concern for the environment. Diligence on the part of media watchdogs helped to save Chevron's reputation in this instance.
Interestingly, Chevron recently invested heavily in shale gas sites in the United States. Environmentalists, despite studies to the contrary from Penn State and Duke University, have developed a storyline of shale gas drilling's threat to water supplies to fight against it.
It is not hard to speculate that if Chevron actually had adulterated water supplies in Ecuador, a case could be made that they could not be trusted to behave in Pennsylvania, Texas, or West Virginia.
Fortunately, the liberal agenda of this 60 Minutes report was exposed. But how many other stories go unexamined and feed into public opinion?