Here’s How to Shape a Story

By April 28, 2007Energy

The Washington Post front-paged its story today on Monday’s announcement from the Department of Interior about oil and gas development in U.S. coastal waters. Seems like reasonable news judgment, especially given the anticipated impact on drilling off Virginia.

But if you want an example of how a story slowly slants and slants and slants until it topples over into bias, “U.S. Proposal Would Allow Oil Drilling Off Virginia,” is a good one.

Here are the citations and a brief description of the point of view expressed toward the proposal, or rather, what they expect it to be.

  • Department of Interior, the media advisory about Monday’s announcement. A short citation, Interior officials declined comment.
  • Richard Charter of Defenders of Wildlife.
  • Critical.

  • Richard Ayers of the environmental group Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper.
  • Critical.

  • Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, D-VA.
  • Neutral, descriptive.

  • Athan Manuel, offshore drilling expert at the Sierra Club.
  • Critical.

    And as is often the case, advocates of accessing OCS energy resources are not quoted, but have their views paraphrased by the reporters.

    Many drilling advocates say that the oil industry has had a good environmental record in the Gulf of Mexico and that the nation needs to develop domestic oil and gas reserves to bring down prices and reduce reliance on foreign oil.

    Compare the Post’s version to that of the Houston Chronicle’s, “Proposal would expand offshore drilling.” The Chronicle cites the Interior’s media advisory more fully, providing the Administration’s rationale for the plan.

    “The multiyear program would significantly increase the nation’s domestic energy supplies, while protecting the coastal and marine environments and provide a major economic stimulus to the nation and participating coastal states.”

    And here are the sources quoted by the Chronicle.

  • Lisa Flavin, exploration affairs coordinator for the Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry trade group.
  • Supportive.

  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
  • Supportive.

  • Richard Charter, marine conservation expert for Defenders of Wildlife and co-chair of the National OCS Coalition.
  • Critical.

  • Pamela Miller, Arctic coordinator for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.
  • Critical.

    Really, if the Chronicle can find someone to say something positive about energy development, why can’t the Post?