InsideClimate News may have won a Pulitzer Prize, but it looks like it skipped Journalism 101: report, don’t speculate.
InsideClimate writer David Hasemyer reported on May 23, that ExxonMobil lost an appeal “to keep records held by its auditors” from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation. InsideClimate repeatedly promoted the story on Twitter since that day.
However, far from just reporting the update to the legal battle, Hasemyer launched into a series of speculations about the “perhaps damaging” information the documents “could” provide. That isn’t how news works. But it proves that the agenda of InsideClimate News isn’t news, it’s promoting a liberal agenda on climate change and the environment.
“They could contain anything from a smoking gun email to plodding, yet revealing, discussions related to Exxon’s posture on global warming, including whether the company was adequately calculating climate change risks for investors,” Hasemyer wrote.
It was all pure speculation and not journalism.
The first principle of journalism ethics as established by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is to “Seek Truth and Report It.” According to SPJ, that means journalists should “Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work” and “Verify information before releasing it.”
His conjectures were unverifiable and nothing more than a cheap shot at ExxonMobil by planting ideas in readers’ minds.
Hasemyer was the co-author of a 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning report, and has won honorable mention in two different environmental journalism awards. Given his experience, there’s no excuse for biased speculation disguised as reporting.
The SPJ Ethics code also states journalists are responsible to “label advocacy and commentary;” but the article was not labeled opinion (or fantasy).
It’s clear InsideClimate’s interest in ExxonMobil is full-blown activism. The site has been attacking the company at least since September 2015, when it claimed the oil company knew the impact of climate change in the early 1980s, but hid the information from their stockholders.
The investigative project attacking ExxonMobil was funded by the Rockefeller Family Fund, which also funded a similar smear campaign by Columbia Journalism School and the Los Angeles Times. George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund also funded the attack.
The liberal Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a lawsuit against Exxon in September 2016 for “deceiving the public about climate science.” A May 2016 press release announcing CLF’s intention to sue specifically cited an “expose last September by InsideClimate News.”