Frac Sand News Stories: Fair or Foul?
by Corey Poppe
To date, three of four network affiliated TV news stations in Minneapolis-St. Paul have produced extended stories on frac sand production. The third aired Sunday during our local Fox newscast. I tuned in — mainly to count all the Superior conveyors! Afterward, I was ticked about the unbalanced airtime in favor of the opponents (and I counted 3 Superior conveyors). Where was the talk of jobs? The talk of energy independence and economic opportunity? So, instead of penning a message to the station, I decided to write my feelings for Channel 72!
First, I should allow you the chance to watch the stories and make your own opinions before you read mine. Here are some links:
- KARE 11: Wisconsin Sand Sparks “Gold” Rush (September 22, 2011)
- 5 Eyewitness New (KSTP-TV): Why Frac Sand is a Hot Commodity (June 8, 2012)
- Fox 9 (KMSP-TV): Silica Sand Creates Sandstorm of Controversy (November 11, 2012)
Rating the Stories
I know…I know…I work for a conveyor manufacturer and my opinion is skewed, but with so many Americans agreeing about energy independence, isn’t this a step in that direction? Homegrown materials…for homegrown energy production…trucks…conveyors…sands…and fuel all coming from the United States!
I watched each story a couple times so I could make sure my feelings were not too emotional. The ratings below are based on overall fairness; reporting that was accurate and clear; in-depth for a reason and not just to fill air; and lastly, did the report share any good news? Like the thousands and thousands of jobs created?
- Fairness: Three interviewees opposed and two in favor. Mine company not given opportunity to reply to opponent’s claims.
- Accuracy: How am I to know if the opponent’s claims are accurate with no response time? Geologist report locals didn’t want ordinances pre-frac.
- Clarity: Confused with the toxicologist? No followup on KARE’s website after his test was complete. Viewers left to believe air is unhealthy?
- Depth: He introduced a lot of characters in a short time which generalized the story. What are the mine company’s plans throughout the mine’s life?
- Jobs: Job creation mentioned quickly at 5:43 into 6:25 long story. No mention of number of jobs created.
- Fairness: I believe what he’s saying is true, but not enough interview subjects to back up the message. The one interview seemed versed on pros and cons.
- Accuracy: More than emotion, the piece was education. I like that! Let me decide instead of an emotionally charged individual swaying me.
- Clarity: A bit confused when report bounced back and forth from process to production…but content was rich and I was able to watch more than once.
- Depth: Wasn’t much longer than KARE’s but felt twice as long…a GOOD thing! The reporter avoided cute sound effects and spoke of facts and findings.
- Jobs: Every night the lead story is where are the jobs? How about good news from the mines? Jobs creation mentioned at 1:32…early, but quick.
- Fairness: While the opponents were allowed to speak on their beliefs and fears, mining proponents did not get air time to respond to any of these claims.
- Accuracy: The story introduced the head of Minnesota Trout Unlimited. He claimed the mining will affect fishing waters. Is there any data to back this claim?
- Clarity: Rather than take time for substance, this reporter busied the story with too much creative jargon. The words stole time from fact checking.
- Depth: Local fisherman, restaurant owner and homeowners opposed seemed to cover the oppositions’ points well. The proponents’ interviews were fluff.
- Jobs: I can’t find mention of job creation? While not the most important fact to a concerned environmentalist, it’s a point that needs to be made when you talk so much of job loss.