Friday, May 27th, 2011

Reuters Misleads Readers on Koch Industries and the Keystone XL Pipeline. We Respond.

Mr. Jack Reerink
Managing Editor
Reuters

Dear Mr. Reerink:

For the second time in recent weeks, Reuters has permitted an agenda-driven advocacy organization, SolveClimate, to run an article on your news agency about Koch Industries that is factually inaccurate and beneath Reuters’ standards. Here are links to those two articles:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/10/idUS292515702420110210

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/25/idUS336798587820110525

Let me be specific about our concerns:

– We have stated publicly and repeatedly, including last week when questioned by staff of Congressman Waxman, that we have no financial stake in the pipeline that is the subject of the reporting and we are not party to its design or construction. We are not a proposed shipper or customer of oil delivered by this pipeline. We have taken no position on the legislative proposal at issue before Congress and we are not cited in any way in that legislation.

– These core facts have been omitted from the reporting and instead, we are presented — in headline and content — as though we are central party to the issue. What’s more, both articles report that increasing the supply for oil production will somehow raise prices and thus benefit our company. Not only is this economically nonsensical, it benefits us no more or no less than any other buyer or seller of oil.

– Although these facts above are easily verified, we have never been contacted by the “reporters” from SolveClimate, nor anyone else at Reuters — not for input, reaction, or fact-checking.

– SolveClimate is a self-described advocacy organization, which is also easily discerned from the articles since they are littered with opinionated assertions about what it thinks the administration and Congress ought to to do or not do.

– Despite all these disqualifying factors, the article is actively and specifically being cited by Democratic members of Congress as a “news account” that somehow justifies Congressional investigation. Then, absurdly, the second article appears indicating that we are “stonewalling Congress.”

I would like to request some explanation for how Reuters justifies such obviously distorted and agenda-driven copy to be presented to its readers as though its actual, hard news? How is it possible that articles like this got past editors without even a basic request for input from us, let alone a cursory fact-check? I would also like some assurance that Reuters management will take some measures to prevent SolveClimate from disparaging us through your agency in the future.

Sincerely,

Philip Ellender
President, Government and Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

cc:
Stephen Adler, Editor in Chief, Reuters
Jim Impocco, Executive Editor of website
Lea Eichler, Online Editor in Charge
T. J. Svensson, Assistant General Counsel

_____________________________________________

Richard Baum, the General Manager, New York & Canada, Reuters News at Thomson Reuters, responded quickly.

_____________________________________________

From: Richard Baum
Sent: Thursday, May 26, 2011 5:26 PM
To: Ellender, Philip
Subject: FW: Recent Reuters stories on Koch Industries

Dear Philip,

Thanks for your email, which we of course take seriously. I’ve spoken on a couple of occasions to a colleague of yours explaining our policy towards the many third-party suppliers of content on Reuters.com. We take feeds from several news organizations on the condition that they uphold Reuters standards. We’re satisfied that SolveClimate, which is a news organization, meets those. I have in particular checked that they contact companies for comment. SolveClimate says they have tried to get comment from you repeatedly without success.

Our process for handling complaints about third-party content is to direct them to the supplier. We require the supplier to deal fairly with the complaints and to make corrections as necessary. If we are not satisfied with the way they handle complaints, we will review the relationship. If you are not satisfied with the response from SolveClimate, please get back to me.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Baum
General Manager, New York & Canada, Reuters News
Thomson Reuters

_________________________________________________

We answered Mr. Baum the next day and pressed for a more satisfactory answer.

_________________________________________________

Dear Mr. Baum:

I appreciate your note, but I must admit I remain puzzled by the response, which still leaves several questions unanswered.

To reiterate, neither SolveClimate nor Reuters contacted any of our company representatives for comment for this story. Did SolveClimate inform you of the date and time of their purported inquiry to us, and to whom it was made at Koch Industries? If so, please kindly send that correspondence to me and I will gladly look into it.

Second, as this story appeared on Reuters, shouldn’t readers have a reasonable expectation your service has approved both the accuracy and fairness of its content? How does Reuters ensure that its balance and objectivity standards are achieved when it allows a self-described advocacy organization such as SolveClimate to publish what it wishes?

We try to engage and respond to inquiries from real news organizations to inform the public of the facts about our company. Reuters meets this standard; SolveClimate does not.

SolveClimate is an advocacy website created in 2007 by CivicActions, a developer of “progressive” websites, based on a proposal from the public relations firm ScienceFirst. This is publicly available information. SolveClimate only publishes information that supports their point of view on anthropomorphic climate change.

Readers would be right to question the accuracy and balance of this story based on the stated views of its source. What’s more, as this story appeared on the Reuters wire service, readers would understandably direct such questions to Reuters itself, not the organization that provided the content.

Respectfully, I would like to request further explanation from Reuters on these important issues. I would also like to request that you or another designated Reuters representative contact us prior to publication in the event a future “third party supplier” plans to write a story about our company on your service. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Philip Ellender
President, Government and Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

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