A new piece from Portfolio explores the media’s coverage of the rising cost of gas and accuses it of parrotting the industry line:
…no one of any age can doubt that the industry’s star performer in the public relations battle over gasoline prices is Rex Tillerson chairman and C.E.O. of Exxon Mobil. His appearances on the Today show have become five-minute promos for price escalation, with Matt Lauer cast as the surrogate for a nation of consumers who don’t fully understand their role—helpless and sacrificial—while the company maximizes shareholder value, “our reason for being.”
Energy/economics reporting is indeed sloppier than averages and attacking this is a worthy goal. Unfortunately the piece disappointingly plunges into discussing banalities like windfall-profit tax schemes, the ANWR, and most of all how corporations are evil money grabbers. For example:
Even with Exxon Mobil making $76,000 a minute, the last thing that occurs to many assignment editors and reporters is to investigate whether a windfall-profits tax would drive Exxon Mobil, BP, and other oil companies to invest in the alternative-energy strategies they boast about in their television commercials.
At best, corporate excess is only partly responsible; there is a wide range of respectable thought on this issue and the debate is far from settled. For instance, witness the discussion about the villains du jour (which Raines ironically doesn’t seem to have got the memo about): speculators (The Spiegel’s take vs The Economists’)
Psychologically though, this article hits the spot in the same way as morning radio shows or conspiracy theories do: it makes you feel like you’re in a privileged position for knowing what’s actually going and pats you on the back for suspecting that your gut feeling about corporations screwing everyone is correct (which is only partly true, at most).
In any case, criticizing journalists for covering the issue poorly and then introducing a flimsy anti-corporate rant hardly seems like progress.
- Link: Crude Reporting