On Tuesday, as apocalyptic wildfire smoke began to blanket the East Coast, the digital media startup Semafor hosted the “definitive conversation on permitting reform” — sponsored by lobbyists for fossil fuel interests and set up as a victory lap for special guest Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who had just pushed through a controversial gas pipeline in the new debt ceiling law.
But within minutes of Semafor’s top editor congratulating the coal baron-turned-senator on his victory, climate activists stormed the interview, derailing the event and leading the Semafor editor to scream on camera at the protestors, “Get off my stage!” The spectacle quickly went viral.
The event perfectly encapsulated the problems with Beltway news outlets’ lucrative corporate sponsorship model. By seeking out fossil fuel industry cash and cozying up to the industry’s favorite politicians as the world burns, media outlets are picking a side in the battle to protect the planet’s future livability — settling down with the arsonists against all other life on Earth.
“Media outlets need to reevaluate,” said Rylee Haught, an organizer with the environmental group Climate Defiance who was involved in Tuesday’s protest. “If they’re taking giant chunks of cash from fossil fuel CEOs, they should be prepared for us to call them out at any time and shut down an event like this. When you’re platforming people like [Manchin], you need to be prepared.”