erik lundegaard

Thursday January 26, 2017

Why NPR's 'Morning Edition' Continues to Suck

Yesterday I heard a report on NPR's “Morning Edition” about the Dakota Pipeline and the continuing protest at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. And I was frustrated all over again by NPR. 

Let me preface this by saying I don't really have any dogs in this hunt. I have a lot of friends on the left who were wringing their hands and posting on social media about the protest in October, and all I could think was, “Really? If Donald Trump gets elected in November, this will be the least of your worries.” So this isn't a post to convince you one way or another on Standing Rock/Dakota. It's about Journalism 101. Actually it's about common sense.

The NPR piece was hosted by David Greene and reported on by Amy Sisk, who is introduced at the top of the piece as being from “Prairie Public Broadcasting,” and at the bottom of the piece as being from “Inside Energy, that's a public media collaboration focusing on America's energy issues.” No attempt is made to clarify this. But that's not why I was frustrated.

Sisk spends the first third of the report just talking about the protesters still in the camps being resigned but determined, which is human interest and clarifies nothing. 

Then she talks about the Sioux tribe's concern of potential oil spills and how this will damage the water supply. She says most oil gets where it's supposed to, but “leaks do happen, and they can be devastating.”

Then David Greene asks her about the other side of the debate: 

I mean, you have the oil industry, labor groups. I mean, they have been saying that these two pipelines could be real job creators, so this must be good news for them.

Got that? Job creators. 

Sisk agrees, and says she spoke with Ron Ness with the North Dakota Petroleum Council, “and here's what he had to say”:

RON NESS: This pipeline should be moving oil today, and we'd have 2,000 or 3,000 less trucks on the road in western North Dakota. We'd be getting our oil to market at - to a better market more safely and more reliably, and we'd be getting a better price for it.

What's your follow-up? Ness makes an environmental argument—fewer trucks on the road. But in doing so, doesn't he undercut Dakota Pipeline's main argument about being “job creators”? Aren't 2,000 to 3,000 truck drivers going to lose their jobs? Isn't this really about efficiency for the corporation to create greater profit, and in that efficiency, isn't net employment going down? 

  • “This will create jobs.”
  • “We'll have 2,000 or 3,000 less [sic] trucks on the road.”

There's a seeming discrepancy here. I thought NPR would dig into the discrepancy. Didn't. 

I mean, wouldn't it be ironic if the corporation actually had the better environmental argument (fewer trucks on the road) and the environmentalists had the better jobs argument (more truck drivers)? 

BTW: This BBC report suggests that most of the current oil transportation for this area is via train. It also asks the most relevant question of all: Who does this benefit? The answer? “The pipeline would benefit oil companies, shareholders and local governments. Dakota Access says the project will create between 8,000-12,000 jobs and generate $55m in annual property taxes.” It doesn't mention if those jobs would be temporary or not, and what the net gain/loss for continued employment might be. 

BTW2: Can we stop pretending corporations are interested in creating jobs? Corporations are interested in creating profit. That's it. And they often do this by eliminating jobs. Let's start there. The rest is bullshit.

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Posted at 07:58 AM on Thursday January 26, 2017 in category Politics  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard