A surprising story on the front page: "Research Links Living Near Fracking to Illness"
In the year and a half that I have been doing this blog, I have never seen a story on the front page that connects fracking with health problems. I've noted on my blogs during that period the numerous studies that dealt with the health hazards created by fracking that were not mentioned in our local "newspapers." Here are some of them from my old website and just last month the "newspapers" seemed to go out of their way to defend an EPA study that supposedly said that fracking was not affecting our drinking water. What's going on?
Here is Casey Junkins' lede from yesterday's story:
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University believe proximity to natural gas fracking operations makes people more likely to require hospitalization for heart conditions and neurological illnesses.
Junkin's also quotes WVU researchers and balances the study with an industry official who calls it "Ivy League hogwash." This fracking report appears to be important but as of this morning it has not received coverage by the Associated Press. (Reuters and United Press International did report on the study.)
Why, after ignoring the numerous studies that point to the health hazards related to fracking, has the News-Register suddenly decided to feature this one? My hunch is that the editors have come to a point where even they realize that simply attacking their usual scapegoats (Obama and his EPA) for what has gone wrong with the coal industry are too limiting -- cheap natural gas is obviously playing a major role in coal's demise. I doubt that this revelation will lessen their anti-Obama rhetoric, but I think we are going to see increased demonization of the fracking industry. While they've historically supported all the fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) in the past, I think things may be changing in the Ogden Empire. We shall see.
Trivializing the other side
Some things don't change. One of my earliest blog posts analyzed page 3 of the "Opinion & Community" section of the Sunday "newspaper." On March 23 of last year, I wrote:
I’m sure that most regular readers of the Sunday Wheeling News-Register have seen page C3 of the editorial section where the newspaper offers two liberal columnists with the banner “the left’s turn” and two conservative columnists under “the right’s turn” on opposing sides of the page. At first glance, it would appear that the newspaper is actually looking to present ideas that are not necessarily part of the usual right-wing orthodoxy that dominates its editorial pages. Look more closely, however, and see that “the right’s turn” always deals with substantive issues while “the left’s turn” seldom, if ever, does. Instead, “the left’s turn” almost always covers trivial and mundane matters that can’t help suggesting to the casual reader that liberals have no serious thoughts or ideas.
Yesterday's page 3 certainly proves the point. On "The Right's Turn" we get Charles Krauthammer telling us "Iran Deal Even Worse Than Had Been Expected" and Linda Chavez arguing that "Obama Brings Us Closer to War in Middle East." On the left side, we have Mark Shields telling us that "Graham Honest, Rejects Animosity" and Connie Schultz advising us: "Living Life to the Fullest By Looking Toward the End." Let's see, two critical pieces on the recent Iran nuclear treaty is balanced by a puff piece on a Republican presidential hopeful and some politically irrelevant piece on living.
I think my conclusion is still relevant:
Are they stacking the deck? Of course they are. There are plenty of liberal columnists who regularly author well-developed and thought-provoking articles; Paul Krugman, Ellen Goodman, and Leonard Pitts Jr. quickly come to mind. Of course, the News-Register is not interested in printing liberal ideas that are articulate and well-researched when they can print columns that are irrelevant or downright silly and then label them as “The Left’s Turn.” Hey, News-Register editors – if conservative ideas are so great, what are you afraid of?