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The Press takes a “clean up” tour with Enbridge

October 14, 2010

What happens when a major energy company, which was responsible for one of numerous environmental catastrophes, invites the media to a “clean up” tour? Answer: the news media takes them at their word.

This is a conclusion that any sane person would come to after reading yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press article entitled, “Enbridge gives tour to show most of the oil from Kalamazoo River spill has now been cleaned up.”

Reporter Chris Killian begins the article by describing what he believes is a recovering eco-system along Talmadge Creek. He states at one point, “Life is slowly returning to normal at ground zero of one of the worst oil spills in Midwest history.” Now, I don’t know what kind of environmental knowledge this reporter has, but I’m not sure that just looking at an eco-system is enough evidence to make the kind of value judgment that the reporter does.

Beyond the reporter’s own observations the only other source he relied on for this story was someone from Enbridge’s management team. Not surprising since the occasion for the Press reporter’s visit to the Talmadge Creek was to take a “tour” of the area affected by the oil spill.

Sure the article mentions EPA requirements for the clean up, but no one from the EPA was interviewed for the story in terms of how the clean up is going. The Press writer did not speak to any of the local residents, local biologists or environmental groups as to their assessment of the short-term impact of the Enbridge caused oil spill. Instead they just took the word of the company that caused the disaster in the first place.

We have noted this kind of coverage in the Press in recent months, such as a story in August based on an interview with the CEO of Enbridge. In this most recent article they even used clean up data that was also provided by Enbridge, again without any verifications of whether or not the data is accurate or independent data from a different source.

This type of reporting is completely unacceptable, especially considering that Enbridge has been responsible for at least 610 documented spills, according to a report put out by Tar Sands Watch. At a minimum, the reporter should have been painfully clear up front that his story was based on a tour hosted by the company and for the media. Maybe a disclaimer at the beginning of the article would have been in order.


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