National Geographic fans worry about partnership with climate change skeptic Rupert Murdoch

September 11, 2015
6 Comments

Last month, Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter to vent his frustration about an upcoming United Nations climate summit in New York.

A week later, he blamed “extreme greenies” for hindering economic growth. “Seems beyond reason,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox paid $725 million for 73 percent control of a partnership with National Geographic’s media arm, giving Murdoch and his media empire sway over the magazine revered for its science coverage.

That has the magazine’s fans worried:

Executives at Fox and National Geographic underscored that the new partnership — which will be governed by a board with an equal number of representatives from each organization — would not affect the magazine’s standards of reporting.

“I don’t think that they would be investing in this brand if it weren’t to keep the quality of what National Geographic stands for,” National Geographic CEO Gary Knell told the New York Times.

National Geographic’s Editor in Chief Susan Goldberg told The Washington Post, “Fox has acknowledged that they have not always represented the National Geographic brand in some of those programs in a way we loved or even they loved,” but added that the partnership was “great news” that would support the magazine’s journalism.

But outside onlookers, pointing to scientists’ criticism of Murdoch’s comments and Fox’s climate change coverage, gloomily speculated about the effect of the partnership on the magazine’s famous science journalism.

Last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a study arguing that 72 percent of Fox’s climate change coverage was “misleading.”

A few months later, Murdoch gave an interview with Sky News arguing that humans were responsible for “nothing, in the overall picture,” with regard to climate change in Australia.

“Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here,” he said, adding that humans were responsible for only one third of global temperature increases, if anything.

“Wrong,” University of Melbourne atmospheric scientist David Karoly, author of several studies on changes in Australia’s climate, told Bloomberg News. ” … It is hard to know or even guess what Rupert Murdoch’s statements are based on.”

People worried about the future of National Geographic’s climate change coverage might be comforted that James Murdoch, Fox’s chief executive, has argued that “clean energy is a conservative cause.” In an interview with the Guardian published in 2009, he said: “All of the climate-prediction models suggest we’re on the worst-case trajectory, and some cases worse than the worst case. That’s my depressing take on it.”

Speaking to National Geographic staffers Wednesday, James Murdoch said he revered the publication, which he has read since childhood. He told the New York Times he has no plans to change the culture or mission of the magazine.

“It is a creative business we are in, and we are in creative alignment,” he said.

© 2015, The Washington Post

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