I’m a huge fan of the media and high-quality journalism. The free press is a cornerstone of democracy, and much more. The largest media outlets in the world have the resources, passion, and expertise to do tremendous investigative reporting that is invaluable to society.
That said, major media outlets suck at covering cleantech. Actually, except in the case of Tesla, they hardly ever cover cleantech. They do obsessively write about and talk about Tesla (especially TSLA), but they create a narrative about the company that is misleading, unbalanced, highly negative, and just plain odd.
After responding to article after article after articles, some members of our team here at CleanTechnica had an idea — how about we track media coverage of Tesla and try to evaluate it in some objective, aggregated way?
Oh boy, we did not realize what we were getting into! Over the last week, we have been tracking every Tesla headline from over 30 of major media outlets. Some of these outlets publish a few Tesla stories a week, while others publish dozens of them.
As much as we thought the coverage appeared biased and heavily focused on negative spin before we started this project, once we started looking at every Tesla headline, we realized it was much more warped than we originally thought. The results were stunning.
Stats and charts from our first full week of the project are summarized below.
In the first week of September, 208 Tesla-related headlines were published in the major media outlets we tracked. Out of those 208 headlines, 155 of them included negative insinuations, 26 of them implied something positive, and the remaining 27 appeared neutral.
For a little bit of context here, this was a week in which it became clear the Tesla Model 3 became the 5th best selling car in the United States in terms of units sold and the #1 best selling car in the United States in terms of revenue. Tesla sold more cars in August in the US than BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, Acura, Infiniti, or any other luxury car brand. (Note: these rankings concern cars, not SUVs or trucks.)
It was also a week in which Tesla CEO Elon Musk was on a 2½ hour podcast with Joe Rogan in which they discussed all manner of topics. In one short segment of that, Elon puffed on a joint, and then noted that he rarely smoked weed (seemingly implying that he almost never did). He also repeated a note that he considers pot to be bad for productivity. As you know, media headlines largely mentioned the puff of weed and rarely mentioned anything else from the 2½ hour podcast.
In addition to tracking the connotation of the headlines, we decided to tally up the number of headlines focusing on a few major topics. You can see the results of that tally in the second chart below.
We also summarized findings regarding the number of Tesla headlines published in different media outlets. As you can see in the chart below, a large portion of the Tesla stories — and variations of them, and more variations of them, and more variations of them — were published on Bloomberg, Business Insider, and CNBC, with Reuters, Forbes, and CNN filling out a second tier.
A slight variation on that theme that we thought was interesting to summarize as well was where the reporting originated. (Many of these sites republish a lot of content from other sources.) The ranking was similar to the chart above, but it indicated that certain websites are reposting many headlines/stories (mostly negative) from other sources. Business Insider and Yahoo stood out above the crowd in that regard.
The takeaway this past week was that major media outlets — or at least their headlines writers — have been heavily negative about Tesla. Additionally, they thought it was extremely newsworthy that Elon Musk puffed on a joint for a brief moment (and didn’t even seem to inhale) on The Joe Rogan Experience, with 37 headlines making direct reference to that puff.
Aside from the weed, they wrote 5 headlines about SEC investigations, 8 headlines about Tesla sales, and 12 headlines about tweets. Other headlines concerned Elon Musk, other Tesla executives, the stock price, Tesla competitors, lawsuits, Tesla products, and other matters.
In the end, despite the stunning news highlighted in the stories below, major media outlets couldn’t find time to figure out or cover these milestones despite dropping a ton of virtual ink on a vast number of negative storylines — narrative which serve very little actual value. Is there any wonder Elon Musk is so combative with the media?