A News Corp Australia employee accused the company of misleading and "dangerous" reporting on the bushfires in an email to all staff.
Emily Townsend, a commercial finance manager at News Corp, accused the company's outlets, including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, of deliberately obfuscating the role of climate change in the bushfires.
Read the email below.
It's certainly one way to walk out the door.
On Friday, News Corp Australia employee sent an all-staff email slamming the company's "dangerous" reporting on the Australian bushfire crisis, accusing mastheads The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun of deliberately obfuscating the role of climate change in the ongoing disaster.
Emily Townsend, a commercial finance manager at News Corp, was replying to an email from executive chairman Michael Miller, which outlined the ways the company was helping those who "support communities impacted by the bushfires and those persons who are providing valuable community assistance".
Here's how Townsend replied – in an email blasted out to a series of internal mailing lists:
Thank you for your email regarding fundraising and other support initiatives in relation to the devastating fires.
Unfortunately however, this does not offset the impact News Corp reporting has had over the last few weeks. I have been severely impacted by the coverage of News Corp publications in relation to the fires, in particular the misinformation campaign that has tried to divert attention away from the real issue which is climate change to rather focus on arson (including misrepresenting facts).
I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies. The reporting I have witnessed in The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun is not only irresponsible, but dangerous and damaging to our communities and beautiful planet that needs us more than ever now to acknowledge the destruction we have caused and start doing something about it.
News Corp’s decision to take this approach in such a devastating time for our country, communities and environment is a step too far for any of us stakeholders to ignore and continue with our daily tasks without thinking for a minute about what we are contributing to.
Anxiety and disappointment are the feelings that have been occupying me over the last 24 hours, to the point where I am finding it incredibly difficult to focus on my work and do my job.
I hope this email will get you as a leader of this organisation to think about the big picture and the impact of our publications.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the email was removed from staff inboxes within an hour of being sent.
Townsend has been contacted for comment.
The original emails – from the leaker and from Townsend – are below.
What is News Corp accused of?
News Corp mastheads have been accused by critics in recent weeks of over-egging coverage of some causes of bushfire – like arson and land clearing policy – while avoiding wherever possible discussion of climate change.
A report in The New York Times yesterday by Sydney bureau chief Damien Cave suggested the company's reporting represents a "relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet" to shift blame away from conservative leaders and "divert attention from climate change."
"For many critics, the Murdoch approach suddenly looks dangerous," Cave writes. "They are increasingly connecting News Corp to the spread of misinformation and the government’s lacklustre response to the fires."
Outlets like The Australian have been following the arson angle closely – with their reporting garnering attention from climate change denial circles on social media and far-flung right-wing figures like Donald Trump Jr.
The above story was later updated to clarify that the 180 figure cited was in fact since the beginning of 2019 – not the bushfire season, as earlier reported.
News Corp, for its part, denies it is obfuscating the role of climate change.
“Our coverage has recognized Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” the company told the NYT in response to the above story. “The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”
Know anything about News Corp Australia's reporting on climate change? Email the author here.