WZZM 13 story gives more weight to pro-fracking voices
On Tuesday, WZZM 13 ran a story that looks at the issue of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
By framing the story this way, WZZM 13 makes the issue of fracking sound ok, since it has been happening for decades and no one has made an issue out of it before. One of the news-readers does say it is happening on a larger-scale, but doesn’t qualify what is meant by larger scale. Fracking is not only happening in more places around the country, the drill is much deeper, with more pressure and the use of more chemicals, facts which are not presented by channel 13.
A WZZM 13 news-reader then says that one of their reporters went to Pennsylvania to investigate the issue there, but the video that follows is with the reporter in Barry County speaking with a member of the environmental group MLAWD.
The reporter also states, “In 2012, Michigan leased the minerals rights to the highest bidder. Most of the parcels were sold to energy companies, eager to find gas and oil reserves.” This statement is misleading, since Michigan has been auctioning off public land for years to oil & gas companies and had two major auctions in Lansing last year, as it does every year. Channel 13 showed footage of the auction, but did not mention that hundreds of people came to that DNR auction to disrupt and protest the auction.
The WZZM 13 story cites 5 sources all together, with 2 environmental voices, 1 oil & gas industry voice and 1 citizen voice. However, the story weighs heavily towards the pro-fracking side, once we look at what information and how much time each voice was given.
Steve Losher with Michigan Air Land Water Defense in Barry County, is cited first. Losher has some important things to say about fracking and its potential problems, even mentioning the lawsuit the group filed against. However, the story provides no details about the lawsuit. Part of the commentary from Losher is while he is protesting outside of the October 24 DNR land auction in Lansing, but the channel 13 story does say that or provide any indication this is where Losher was when they interviewed him.
The other environmental voice is in the context of the WMEAC screening of the film Promised Land, which took place last month in Grand Rapids. Here the comment that is used gives the impression that local communities have no say in state leasing issues. This is true in that local communities do not get to vote on fracking in Michigan, but it doesn’t mean that local communities can’t resist fracking by whatever means they chose.
The oil & gas person that WZZM 13 talks to, Cabot Oil & Gas, is not only provided with more time to talk, they are made to look as if they are the experts on the issue. The channel 13 reporter goes on a tour of a fracking well site in Pennsylvania, where the company spokesperson makes patently false statements. First, the Cabot Oil & Gas person says, “we have a tremendous amount that’s producing profound levels of gas that are leading us to energy security.” What does the oil & gas spokesperson mean by us? Does he mean the nation? And if, natural gas extraction is leading the US to more energy security, why is it that much of the new natural gas that is being fracked is slated for export? This is what a recent report from Food & Water Watch states, something the channel 13 reporter fails to investigate.
The second false statement that the oil & gas spokesperson makes, is when he says, “Natural gas is a clean burning fossil fuel. It’s one of the cleanest fossil fuels.” Ok, so which is it, a clean burning fossil fuel or one of the cleanest? In addition, the notion of clean is false, since burning any fossil fuel contributes to climate change, which is really the bigger issue, not just whether it creates pollution.
The other pro-fracking voice that WZZM 13 cites is a spokesperson from the DEQ. This person states that fracking is safe and, “We have never had any public health incidents ot environmental incidents related to fracking.” This is also a false statement, since Ban Fracking Michigan discovered that the Michigan DEQ was spreading contaminated fracking water on Michigan roads in the past year.
Just because a reporter talks to both sides of an issue, it doesn’t mean they don’t present a bias. In this case it is clear that the pro-fracking people are presented as the experts and provided more time to present their case in this story.