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:

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?

Station Fairness Accuracy Clarity Depth Jobs



  • 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.
5 Eyewitness News
  • 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.
Fox 9
  • 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.
Yikes! Re-reading my thoughts makes me sound a bit like a fanatical hack! But I challenge you to find some nonpartisan reports on frac sand mining…its effects on the environment, local energy production and job creation. Learn how the land is restored post mining and how recycled water is used in material saturation. Knowledge and facts are power in any debate.
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