Chicago Newsman Shills for Climate Skeptic Group

Aeditor lent his name and the name of his paper to the conservative Heartland Institute to pitch a skeptical global warming documentary to journalists.
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Out in Chicago, beyond the radar of coastal elite media watchers, a serious journalism ethics scandal is unfolding.

It involves Chicago Sun-Times Business Editor Dan Miller, who lent his name (or rented it...nobody seems to have asked whether money changed hands) and the name of his paper to the conservative/free market Heartland Institute to pitch a skeptical global warming documentary to journalists in Chicago and elsewhere, urging them to "keep an open mind" about global warming.

"Open mind" meaning open to the idea that more than a decade of global scientific consensus is wrong, apparently.

Heartland is the group that for months has been running ads in The New York Times and elsewhere challenging the view that global warming is a serious threat to the economy and our environment. They do not disclose their funding sources, but have strong, well-documented ties to far-right foundations as well as big tobacco. If the scope of their ad buys are any indication, they are not hurting for resources. Accounts have put the spend at at least $1.2 million.

The cover letter on the press kit carried the specific heading "From the Desk of Dan Miller, Business Editor, Chicago Sun Times."

Miller himself has so far not commented.

But the public affairs talker at Heartland gave this surprisingly honest explanation for the pitch, telling the Chicago Tribune that "If it came from just ourselves, it would look like an advertisement and just get lost."

Still not convinced that this is a deep breach of journalistic ethics?

Try replaying the same scenario, but substitute "Hillary Clinton" or "Rudy Giuliani" for "global warming." If the business editor for a leading metropolitan daily had sent a letter nakedly encouraging fellow reporters to take a second look at one of the presidential candidates, he would fast be looking for a new job.

Here, he has done essentially the same thing by throwing himself into one of the most important political debates today.

(For comparison's sake, note that *former* ABC News correspondent Carole Simpson yesterday had to offer up her resignation from the journalism program at Emerson College for publicly endorsing Hilary Clinton for president.)

To be clear: It would have been perfectly legitimate for Miller to raise this sort of question in a column, under the cold hard light of day. Or to assign a reporter to a news story examining the issue.

But it is *not* OK for him to be using his name and that of the paper as part of a one-sided, behind-the-scenes sales pitch from an organization with an expressly unbalanced view of a critical public issue. (It wouldn't be any more appropriate for him to stick his name on something from us, for the same reason.)

Miller would have a hard time claiming he was taken in by the interest group, since he used to work there himself.

All this is particularly significant given where we are now in the global warming conversation. The Supreme Court ruled this spring that EPA can no longer ignore the problem. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court threw out the administration's proposed fuel economy rules for light trucks because they did not take into account global warming impacts. At least a dozen states are beginning to regulate CO2 emissions. There are several bipartisan bills now moving through Congress to do the same thing at the federal level, and a growing list of major companies are now calling on Washington to get moving on the question.

In other words, this is no backwater that Miller waded into. In doing so, he not only crossed the line...he seems to have ignored it entirely. His bosses at the paper have some 'splainin to do.

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