In Clearing the Air - Part 3, I ended with the question, "How come this stuff never gets reported?"
I'm wondering, "Are these issues getting fair time? Is there too much information? Or, could there be reporting bias."
I know claims of media bias are not new. Journalists can alleviate bias claims through the simple art of objective reporting (giving equal time to differing viewpoints). This type of reporting would be considered “fair and balanced.”
However, media vendors, not only report NEWS, they are also in the business of seeking profits.
Therefore, NEWS is used as a tool to gain profits through readership. Readers, in turn, represent the enormous potential for attracting businesses advertisers. Advertising dollars are the real game. Revenue generation explains why celebrities get so many headlines. Celebrities are human marketing machines. They attract attention; they gain readers across a wide spectrum of the population, and the results can be seen in advertising income.
Political bias might also influence reporting behavior.
For example, over the past several weeks, the local paper has presented a strictly contrarian view of the County’s common-sense air quality strategy. Apparently, there isn’t any other side to this story. A quick summary looks like this:
- County gets ‘F’ for air quality (News, 4/30/12)
- County: No changes to AQ Strategy | DEQ: Status quo not enough (News, 5/31/12)
- Officials at odds over County’s Plan (News, 6/20/12)
- More Cushion needed / Plan “too risky” (H & N View, 6/24/2012)
- AQ committee member takes commissioners to task (News, 6/28/12)
- Electric fleet / County’s Inability to meet State Requirements (News, 7/1/12)
- County should not undermine efforts (Letter to Ed, 7/5/12)
Is the lopsidedness we see in reporting due to political leanings? Possibly, but remember the money side of the equation.
Environmental causes need headlines. They need the highest level of support and awareness to attract private and tax-payer funding. Environmental groups need to keep bank-rolling their own internal operations and they do this through advertising, either direct, or indirect.
All organizations recognize the value of being in the news, just like the celebrities mentioned earlier. Mass media networks fill the need. Newspapers, TV, and radio operate in a world of “community interest stories” intertwined amongst troubling news and followed by “action needed” articles. This helps sell newspapers, books and ideologies; it creates controversy and advertising opportunities, and it stimulates political posturing. Basically, environmental organizations are also gigantic marketing machines.
In turn, politicians and bureaucrats become the seemingly legitimate ambulance chasers. They are ever-diligent in their search for victims. Once the legislative beast has been stirred, it too must be continually fed. The legislative effort warrants funding for research and field studies, along with record-keeping and administrative needs. Consequently, this leads to CPA'a, audits, enforcement officers, coordination of cross-agency priorities, and a myriad of rules regulating the enforcement of the original artificial, arbitrary, and fanciful regulations.
The second-half of this lopsided equation is partly built into methods associated with scientific research. In truth, scientific research funding goes mainly to areas targeted for the severity of their problems. News vendors sell papers in direct proportion to headlining these problems. This policy of targeting only problem areas appears to be the wisest course, but it creates a self-perpetuating need for headlining dire circumstances. This might require some minor distortions but it certainly can generate the required cash flow.
Stephen Schneider, a prominent Stanford University professor, described this scenario in a 1989 Discover magazine interview:
“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. On the other hand, we are not just scientist, but human beings as well. And, like most people, we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”1
Unfortunately, for communities like Klamath, these outright distortions combined with EPA’s one size fits all policy never gets discussed. The biased dataset is counter-factual to the rigors of the scientific endeavor. Whether overseeing grazing, timber harvest, air quality, or water policy, the Federal Government is incapable of administering effective policies for disparate communities and this violates the entire concept of “local control.” Like former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus said, “the law does not permit us to act sensibly.”
1 Spencer, Roy W., Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor (New York: Encounter Books, 2008). p. 88. Cited in Bell, Larry, Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2011) pp. 89-90