Thursday, September 30, 2021

With Water Play Trope, Paper Misses on Climate and Hottest Summer on Record

It was great to see the local intern's byline on the front page today.

Front page today

Unfortunately, even after journalists themselves discussed the problem nationally, the paper tamed the story with another image of water play and fun in the heat.

Columbia Journalism Review via Twitter

And perhaps edited out also more on the climate context for the heat. 

The third paragraph summarized things, but this could have been the center of the piece, written outward from it:

The record heat this summer had severe consequences for Oregonians. More than 100 people died due to the temperature in the June heatwave. Large portions of the state spent the summer in various phases of drought. These conditions threatened water resources and made the state more susceptible to wildfire, which has burned about 800,000 acres this year so far.

Instead, it really focused on weather rather than any larger context of climate and its costs. 

But we know the writer knows about climate.

Two years ago, in 2019

Altogether, it was an opportunity for the paper to center climate, and the editors chose not to. This might be the downside of working for the local instance of Big Media. Hopefully it is not too dispiriting or too much a case study in the ways the pursuit of "objectivity" in journalism actually reduces truth-telling. At the same time, the paper can redirect to expand writing on climate, and it should do so!

Elsewhere today, stories were less optimistic about climate, and suggest ways the same story about record heat here in Salem might have been shaped a little differently to give a better sense that this wasn't just some random variation with things likely to return to some "normal."

Oregonian front page today

SF Chronicle front page today

1 comment:

anothervoice said...

I am pleased that the story included "...this wasn't just some random variation with things likely to return to some "normal."". That suggests that the reality of the situation seems to be getting clearer, providing a better opportunity for us to recognize the limitations of what we can actually do.

The recent Council meeting on climate was essentially an announcement that the city's position is simply that nothing substantial can be done. CIM's are set in stone and future ones will go to the same things they always go to, even if voters support a large bond. SDC's for the core will probably be suspended but the city has long devoted itself to providing funds to downtown developers so this is nothing new.

None of us should be at all surprised. Transportation funds are always limited. Since the real estate industry claimed the local government in 2003, development at any cost became the mantra. The only transportation project that really got support was the 3rd bridge proposal, which was intended to facilitate West Salem development at the expense of the rest of the city. Fortunately, that fiasco came to an end after 13 years of wasted money and resources that should have gone toward bike and pedestrian paths and mass transit.

There is no going back. When the left wing of our local neo-liberal advocates decided to sit on their hands (in 2003), Council, soon thereafter, relegated important land use decisions to the biased Planning Commission. Is there any reason to be surprised that they do everything they can to partner with projects with nary a second thought to how those projects limit improvements to the transportation system or how much more dangerous the roads become?

Local media is essentially the PR arm of the city/real estate industry so it is naive to believe that they will support any meaningful changes. Also,readers are more likely to pay for feel good stories than those that present uncomfortable scenarios. Social responsibility? What's that?

It is something that will one day be referred to by a skillful writer like SBOB, who does such an admirable and widely appreciated job of providing historical facts and perspective.