What Photo Do You Use to Illustrate Misleading Journalism?

The New York Times features a longish piece today about the litigation brought by a New York trial lawyer and the Amazon Defense Coalition against Chevron over claims of environmental damage in Ecuador, “Ecuador Oil Pollution Case Only Grows Murkier.”

Well, maybe it’s murky because the paper doesn’t bother to report basic facts, like who actually brought the lawsuit. It’s as if the $27 billion in legal claims just appeared.

The lawsuit is being financed by the Philadelphia law firm of Kohn, Swift and Graf, directed by New York trial lawyer Steven Donziger, and marketed by the Amazon Defense Coalition, which would receive the money from any settlement. And the legal/activist lawsuit is indeed a shakedown intended to force a settlement from Chevron for pollution supposedly left by Texaco, which Chevron purchased in 2001. Texaco operated in Ecuador as Texpet in a joint exploration and production venture with the government-owned oil company, Petroecuador, up until 1992. (See this Texaco history, “Chevron in Ecuador.”)

1992. 1992. 1992. 1992. We stress the year because any oil now appearing as liquid in Ecuador is the responsibility of Petroecuador. First, TexPet remediated all the sites assigned to it for clean-up by the government of Ecuador, which released the company from future claims. Second, oil doesn’t stay liquid on the surface for 17 years!

Those facts notwithstanding, here are the photo and caption the Times used to illustrate today’s story. (In the paper, it’s a five-column black-and-white photo, 6-1/2 inches deep, i.e., big.)

A pool of oil in Lago Agrio, an Ecuadorean town in the Amazon where Texaco left contamination. Chevron, which acquired Texaco, has inherited its legal troubles.
A pool of oil in Lago Agrio, an Ecuadorean town in the Amazon where Texaco left contamination. Chevron, which acquired Texaco, has inherited its legal troubles.

So the Times has illustrated a story about charges of pollution against Chevron with a photo of an oil pit (and flare-offs) created by Petroecuador. And doesn’t bother to tell the readers what they are seeing in the paper has nothing to do with Chevron.

The activists use the trick all the time, pointing to unrelated pollution and claiming Chevron is to blame, but shouldn’t the Times have higher standards? The truth isn’t THAT murky.

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Carter Wood says:

    I keep a pretty light hand on comments here, but from now on, will not be approving those that are basically name-calling.

  • Max German says:

    Sorry, I don’t spend a lot of time in the “world of publishing.” But you really got me on that one. You still haven’t explained why The Chevron Pit, Amazon Defense Coalition blog and Chevron in Ecuador blog won’t publish reader’s comments on their site. Again, they are afraid of an open debate, the Shop Floor is not. You keep changing the subject because you can’t defend your previous statements. And my conclusion that you’re an idiot is backed up with facts: your own statements.

  • john says:

    Max: I distinguish between “publishing” and “readers comments,” a distinction maintained throughout the world of publishing… but, doh! alas I am an idiot, so I guess it does not matter. As for proof, I think your remarks provide good evidence for a general theory of arrogance: when folks fight without facts and reason, they quickly turn to insults.

  • Max German says:

    Tek Jansen many ADC and Karen Hinton statements have been proven to be lies. I guess you can identify me as someone who can back up my statements with facts. Read again at http://hintoncommunicationswatchact.wordpress.com/hinton-communication-list-of-lies/

    John, the fact that you are posting on this blog completely trashes your own argument and answers your own question about Shopfloor publishing criticism of Chevron. The fact that your comments are posted here proves you’re a hypocrite/idiot. The blog you linked to doesn’t post readers comments. The Amazon Defense Coalition blog doesn’t post them either. What are they afraid of?

    And John, the blog you linked to seems to be just a tad, um, shall we say, one-sided!

  • Amazonian says:

    Hey John, in case you didn’t notice, it’s Petroecuador that took over the former Texaco sites, not Chevron. It’s Petroecuador’s responsibility to clean them up since they are the current owners.

  • Tek Jansen says:

    Oh Max, I love when people say that was “proven wrong”. Um, where and when? In fact, nowhere was anything “proven wrong” but feel free to go ahead and state that Amazon Defense Coalition is lying repeatedly. Just identifies you as the type of blogger you are.

  • john says:

    Your blog, by the way, seems to be just a tad, um, shall we say, one-sided? Too bad you use character assassination tactics while the other side seems to be interested in the facts and actually going to Ecuador and talking with the people who LIVE amongst the ruins of Texaco-Chevron’s decades of drilling and spilling.

  • john says:

    Hey Max, It is not my blog, I just linked to it to provide a counter to this blog. So would Chevron publish critics on their Web site? Are they then hypocrites only interested in pushing their propaganda, according to your logic? Does Shopfloor publish criticism of Chevron? Open debate? Debate this: 916 contaminated pits and a corporation fighting tooth and nail to avoid responsibility for the damage.

  • Max German says:

    The real joke here is actually John’s blog, “Chevron In Ecuador.” Try posting anything there that doesn’t conform to his point of view and you’ll never see it published. They are true hypocrites, not interested in truth or open debate, just pushing their propaganda.

  • john says:

    Nice try, slick, but you are guilty of what you accuse. All 916 oil pits in the area under legal challenge, including the Lago Agrio area, were created and contaminated by Texaco, later acquired by Chevron. The pit pictured in the NYT photo may indeed be near an operational site run now by Petroecuador but the contamination was there years before Petroecuador walked on the scene. If this is the best you can come up with to try and hide the environmental devastation unleashed over decades by Texaco and bought on the open market by Chevron, then you might try blogging at Comedy Central.

  • Max German says:

    Kate seems the think that that facts are all one the side of the plaintiffs. If that’s true, then why does Amazon Defense Coalition’s Washington, D.C. spokes person, Karen Hinton keep pumping out press releases full of lies? How about the Wayne Hansen press release that was proven false? Kate also like to post links. Here are some that she might find interesting like the proven list of lies by ADC and Karen Hinton.

    List of Lies: http://hintoncommunicationswatchact.wordpress.com/hinton-communication-list-of-lies/

    More information on Karen Hinton: http://hintoncommunicationswatchact.wordpress.com/

    Or, just Google “Hinton Communications” to find out lies told by Karen Hinton.

  • Tek Jansen says:

    And did you see what ELSE the New York Times did?!??! They published a photo of Obama smiling in a meeting 3 WEEKS ago, get used it for an article about something that happened YESTERDAY! And they expect us to believe that’s the SAME Obama?!? What kind of journalism is that?

    ROFL. I have seen a LOT of Chevron-blogs attacking this case, but this is by far the weakest criticism yet. PULEASE!

  • Kate says:

    Here’s what is NOT murky: there have been 64,000 samples taken of oil contamination in more than 900 oil pits that Texaco built while in Ecuador. Illegal levels of toxic materials have shown up in nearly all of them and they continue to poison rivers and streams, coat the topsoil and affect thousands of plant and animal species. This is the story the news media needs to focus on—the raw and chilling humanitarian crisis. Chevron’s smoke and mirrors should not obscure these very basic, but very real, facts. Here’s a link with more information about the real issues in the case: http://chevrontoxico.com/about/environmental-impacts

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  • Robert says:

    I worked in oil fields for three decades or so. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. Oil pools can last longer than a human lifetime, especially if they’re on swampy soil.

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