New Corp employee quits with damning all-staff email savaging company's 'dangerous misinformation' on climate change and wildfires

'I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies,' Emily Townsend says

Harriet Sinclair
Friday 10 January 2020 14:13
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Emergency warnings issued over raging bushfires in Australia

A News Corp employee has condemned the media company’s coverage of the Australian bushfires as “dangerous and damaging”, announcing her resignation in a damning all-staff email.

Commercial finance manager Emily Townsend said she could no longer work for an organisation she claimed had run a “misinformation campaign” around the wildfires “that has tried to divert attention away from the real issue which is climate change to rather focus on arson (including misrepresenting facts).”

Ms Townsend, who had been with the company for five years, urged executive chairman Michael Miller to consider the impact of information in News Corp’s publications The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun and “think about the big picture”.

The email was forwarded to all employees in the Australian arm of the the Rupert Murdoch-owned company but has since been removed from staff inboxes.

“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),” Ms Townsend said, explaining that she had been left anxious and disappointed by the bushfire coverage to the extent she felt unable to do her job.

“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 to acknowledge the destruction we have caused and start doing something about it.”

While Ms Townsend did not cite any specific examples of reporting that she felt was irresponsible, News Corp’s approach to the bushfires has been the subject of widespread discussion following claims in The Australian that appeared to overstate the role of arson in the blazes.

Another article in the same newspaper suggested the fires were no worse than in previous years, prompting The New York Times to publish an article on the role of News Corp and other conservative media outlets in what it suggested was controlling the narrative surrounding the bushfires.

However, there were also articles featured in News Corp publications that did acknowledge the role of climate change in the fires, which have left more than a billion animals dead, burned 10.3 million hectares and claimed the lives of at least 25 people.

News Corp executive chairman Mr Miller said the organisation stood by its coverage.

“Ms Townsend resigned in December and was due to leave News Corp shortly," Mr Miller said.

"News Corp stands by its coverage of the bushfires. The dedication and professionalism of our journalists and photographers have kept the community — particularly those Australians affected directly — informed and supported.

"We respect Ms Townsend's right to hold her views but we do not agree with them."

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