The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

12 April 2005

Is Kennedy Opposition To Blame?

Paper Gags Wind Farm Reporters

Selective Reporting By Cape Cod Times Leads To Resignations

Nothing makes me happier, than to see one newspaper take on another, over issues of ethics and slanted reporting.

Unlike Seattle, where a protective and clubby atmosphere keeps two daily papers deadly boring, it can be different in the Northeast.

Today's Providence Journal provides a rare, behind-the-scenes look at how the Cape Cod Times, the largest paper in the region, gagged reporters attempting to write anything that might make the Cape Wind electric power project look appealing.

The op-ed essay by Jack Coleman, of Plymouth, Mass., gives particular examples of how the Times has made it clear that coverage must match the constant editorializing against the Kennedy-opposed project.

Coleman is a former bureau chief and political reporter for the Ottaway paper (sister to the Wall Street Journal) and for the sake of fair disclosure, I once worked for another of their publications in California. In addition, I know Coleman personally.

Why is elitist NIMBY-ism winning out over clean and sound power-generating methods? Where are the environmentalists to scream at the injustice of wealthy beachfront property owners blocking what's best for all?

The answer, in my view, can be summed up in two words: Kennedy opposition. With Ted and the family firmly against what they think will ruin their ocean views, liberals are quick to sell out their views in the name of partisan conformity.

No Democrat in his or her right mind would disagree with a Kennedy, ever.

While Coleman doesn't mention the Kennedy name in this particular piece, it's obvious he's referring to the same opponents, who are led by the famous family. Is the paper afraid to take on powerful Cape Cod families with major political connections?

The paper ran an astounding 37 editorials in an 18-month period against the Cape Wind project.

What's amazing, is to see how Coleman documents the newspaper's desire to pander to the same disgusting special-interests, in this excerpt:

(Providence Journal- 12 April 2005- Jack Coleman- Excerpted)
Also at Cape Cod Today

NEVER LET IT BE SAID that The Cape Cod Times is stingy. Unlike many newspapers its size, the 50,000-circulation Times has sent reporters to chase stories in South Africa, Belgium, Brazil and other distant locales.

Cape Cod's only daily is viewed as a cash cow in the Ottaway chain, a subsidiary of Dow Jones. Yet The Times turns downright miserly in covering the biggest local issue in decades -- one that commands more attention in its pages than any other: Cape Wind, the offshore wind-energy project proposed for Nantucket Sound.

If approved, Cape Wind's 130 turbines would form the country's first offshore wind farm -- as well as the largest local construction project since the Cape Cod Canal, of 1910-14.

While wind towers have yet to appear in American waters, they've sprouted in the waters of Denmark, Germany, Britain and Ireland. Given The Times's deep pockets and abiding interest in the Nantucket Sound proposal, you'd think the paper would send a reporter to Europe to find out what the locals there think of offshore wind energy.

Yet The Times's editor in chief, Cliff Schechtman, won't send his reporters anywhere that they might find people who overcame their initial opposition to windmills off their coasts.

Schechtman declined to comment for this column.

It is not as if other media outlets share Schechtman's reluctance. Two local weeklies, The Cape Codder and The Barnstable Patriot, have had reporters visit wind farms in Europe. And when the Cape-based Clean Power Now group makes its second trip to Denmark, next month, a freelance writer from the online news site and an editorial writer from The Boston Globe will join them.

A former Cape Cod Times environmental reporter, John Leaning, sought in vain for Schechtman to send him overseas to provide more depth to the paper's reporting on Cape Wind. "They sent me to Paris to cover an art-show opening by a Cape artist," he said, "but they refused to send me to cover offshore wind farms in Europe."

Leaning said that the wind-farm issue was "a contributing factor" in his decision to leave the paper in December, after 35 years in journalism.

For a possible explanation of the travel ban by the otherwise adventurous Cape Cod Times, look no further than the paper's strident editorials against Cape Wind. They often employ the same pejorative language tossed about by die-hard Cape Wind foes, such as the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. For example, the paper and the organization seem incapable of describing the project without alleging that it would "industrialize" Nantucket Sound. These are windmills we're talking about, not smokestacks.

In March 2004, The Times ran a series on a poll that it had commissioned. One of the stories, which I helped write, said that 55 percent of local residents opposed the Cape Wind project, while 45 percent supported it. But the story lacked an essential element: the undecided.

After learning, days later, that the undecided had accounted for 20 percent of the poll, I suggested to the editors that we revisit the story. I was told: You should have had that figure to begin with, as instructed.

You're right, I said, and I'm the one responsible for this. But now that we know what the figure is, we have an obligation to set the record straight with a story. A correction won't cut it.

Speaking as one, the editors disagreed.

The Boston Globe's media critic, Mark Jurkowitz, heard about the poll and weighed in with a story unflattering to The Times. Most egregious in the Times editors' eyes, I had spoken on the record with Jurkowitz. "It's not the way I'd prefer to go," I had said to him, "but it's not my call."

Coleman, by the way, also left the Cape Cod Times over this issue, after gradually being released from duties due to his vocal criticism of the situation.

Bravo to the Providence Journal for running this fantastic opinion piece today.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Page Rank Checker

Powered by Blogger