Exiting Semafor Climate Editor Calls Out ‘Over-Dependence on Chevron Advertising’

“Semafor adheres to robust ad acceptability guidelines that we stand by, and that are industry standard,” a Semafor spokesperson told TheWrap

Bill Spindle Semafor
Bill Spindle of Semafor

Semafor’s climate and energy editor Bill Spindle has exited the publication after several months after saying his tenure was “marred by an over-dependence on Chevron advertising,” Spindle wrote in a Twitter thread Saturday.

“I’m not saying they or Chevron improperly influenced the climate coverage. I could ‘call it as I saw it,’” Spindle posted on Twitter. “What concerned me was my belief that it was not appropriate to have Chevron advertising on the same page as stories on climate coverage, particularly as the dominant advertiser.”

Spindle’s exit comes just six weeks after the launch of the digital media company “based on journalistic transparency” in October under the leadership of former New York Times media reporter Ben Smith and former Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith.

After sharing his concerns with the publication’s leadership, Spindle notes that Semafor removed the Chevron advertisements from his emailed climate newsletter, but the Chevron ads never left his stories, which Spindle adds “they often appeared as the sole advertiser.”

“Despite my expressed discomfort and concerns, the ads remained,” he continued. “Weeks before our parting of ways last week, I told Semafor leadership I saw no easy path forward as long as fossil fuel ads were in the climate stories and newsletter.”

“We decided to part ways with Bill due to issues that were unrelated to any advertising partnerships,” a Semafor spokesperson told TheWrap. “Semafor adheres to robust ad acceptability guidelines that we stand by, and that are industry standard. We did not remove advertising due to editorial requests and have a number of rotating sponsors of the climate newsletter.”

Spindle did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for additional comment.

Though Spindle expressed that he has “a lot of respect for both the leadership and staff at Semafor as journalists,” he said he would extend his critique to “any news organization doing same.” “Such advertising raises the specter of improper influence, perceived and real,” he said.

Following his time at Semafor, the former Wall Street Journal bureau chief and correspondent will work independently as a journalist, per his LinkedIn, while continuing to cover climate and energy issues through his newsletter.

“I’ll be writing more about fossil fuel advertising — the issue is both simpler and more complicated than often depicted — at The Energy Adventure(r),” he wrote.