Geting the good oil – Exxon Mobil and sponsored journalism

My friend and colleague, Wendy Bacon, who is the director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), is circulating this open letter to journalists and supporters of journalism about Exxon-Mobil’s sponsorship of the Australian journalism awards, the Walkleys.

Wendy’s concerns are valid and in this open letter she, and other signatories are calling on the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (the Australian journalists’ union) to ditch Exxon-Mobil as a sponsor because of the way the company works to suborn independent journalism and because it funds climate change denial.

July 29, 2010

Open Letter

Chris Warren
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance

Dear Chris and organisers of the Walkley Media Conference,

We have recently become aware that Exxon Mobil is the Gold Sponsor of the 2010 Walkley Media Conference.  As journalists and others with an interest in media, we ask you to reconsider this decision and remove its sponsorship.

The MEAA Code of Ethics emphasises the central importance of striving for the truth and the responsibilities of media in a democracy. While we can understand the need for sponsorship, we consider that Exxon Mobil, a transnational oil corporation with a strong record of funding climate skeptic groups is an inappropriate choice. These groups promote confusion and ignorance in the community. They also protect fossil fuel interests threatened by policies aimed at meeting the grave challenge of climate change. Not only does Exxon Mobil fund these groups but it has been neither open nor honest about it.

In addition, Exxon Mobil has a long record of funding groups, which continually attack and undermine media organizations and individual journalists, which they consider to be too liberal.

Exxon is sponsoring the conference in order to gain and enhance their credibility through association with the Australian media community.  We consider that whatever financial advantages have been gained by the MEAA in return for this sponsorship deal, the reputation of the MEAA and its credibility in protecting the role of journalists to seek the truth and the public right to know is too great a price to pay.

Therefore we the undersigned call on MEAA to withdraw from this sponsorship arrangement before the conference. If you would like to discuss this matter with a group of signatories, please contact us,

Wendy Bacon, Journalist, Director Australian Centre for Independent Journalism
Alan Knight – Professor, UTS
Chris Nash, Professor, Monash University
Phillip Chubb, Associate Professor, Monash Universit
Jenna Price – Academic, UTS
Martin Hirst – Associate Professor, Auckland University of Technology (MEAA member# 2731592)

If you would like to add your signature to this letter, contact Wendy Bacon []

The claims made in this open letter are easily verified, the following is a brief list of sources that you can check out if you wish to confirm any of this for yourself.

Nigerian journalists threaten to boycott Exxon Mobil

Uyo — Journalists in Akwa Ibom State have threatened to boycott activities of an American oil exploration and exploitation firm, ExxonMobil, saying the mode of operation of the oil giant in the state does not add value to the socio-economic well being of the state.

[ Feb 2010]

Exxon Mobil’s poor record in Nigeria

OILWATCH Africa, an environmental group concerned with the underbelly activities of the petroleum industry, is currently pressing the Nigerian government to impose heavy sanctions on ExxonMobil, an American oil and gas major, for alleged frequent oil spills in some communities in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.

[ June 2010]

Exxon Mobil ‘green’ company of the year according to Forbes magazine

What an eye-grabber! “ExxonMobil: Green Company of Year.” I mean, who woulda thunk it?

Too bad the provocative headline of Forbes’s current cover story is little more than cheap window dressing. Worse still, its unnecessary hyperbole detracts from what could have been an interesting piece about the oil giant’s high-risk, high-reward bets on natural gas. The article, by Christopher Helman, reasons that power plants will burn Exxon’s gas in the place of comparatively dirty coal, thereby offsetting tens of millions of tons of carbon-dioxide emissions each year.

[Columbia Journalism Review August 2009]

Exxon Mobil funding of climate change denial

Exxon continued to fund climate denial in 2009
Tue, 20 Jul 2010 04:36:45 +0000
ExxonMobil gave approximately $1.3 million to climate denial organizations last year.This has been reported by The Times (London) after being provided information by the Greenpeace Research Department. (The Times is unfortunately a subscription-only paper online, but a version of the story can be found syndicated at The Australian)

[ExxonSecrets – Greenpeace]

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