‘Public Interest’ Reports: Energy Development is Bad

Reading through the alumni bulletin the other day, we spotted an item about Columbia J-School grads going to work for ProPublica:

ProPublica, a nonprofit public interest journalism newsroom, continues to build its staff of investigative reporters. After receiving hundreds of applications, five new staffers were hired…

Right, ProPublica.  Another “public interest” journalism project, well-funded by foundations, not accountable to the marketplace. Supplying investigative projects to media outlets. Wonder which way its coverage will lean.

Today, we can see what kind of stories the project produces.

WNYC has learned in a joint investigation with ProPublica – a non-profit investigative news organization – that New York state regulators have been actively promoting the safety of a practice that has caused environmental damage elsewhere. And they may not be ready to handle the regulatory complexities. WNYC’s Ilya Marritz has the story.

REPORTER: For over a decade, gas companies have been intensively tapping unconventional plays in western states like Colorado. Drill rigs have brought a lot of wealth, but at the same time they’ve dredged up a host of environmental problems – contaminating water supplies and drying up aquifers.

The culprit is a practice called hydraulic fracturing. It’s never been done much in New York. But it’s the only way to get gas out of the Marcellus. Basically the driller blasts the bottom of the well shaft with water, sand, and chemicals, under very high pressure in order to free up the gas. Hydrofracking demands a huge amount of water of water – up to six million gallons per well.

And here’s how the Albany Times-Union plays the 2,700-word story:

And from the website:

Upstate New York’s looming natural gas nightmare
Regulators asleep as lawmmakers attempt to declare vast acreage open to the energy industry’s iffy underground fracturing technique

They’re aghast at hydraulic fracturing? Calling it toxic? Criminy.

If you can manage to demonize one of the basic processes now used widely in oil and natural gas production in the United States, well, turn out the lights, bundle up and put the car up on blocks.

This report is evidence of a journalistic trend that should profoundly trouble free-market and business advocates. With newspapers cutting staff, more and more editors will be looking for ways to fill the paper. So now you have “independent” groups doing journalism, offering their reports in the “public interest.”

This manifestation, at least, is clearly political, anti-business. From ProPublica: “Lead funding for this effort is being provided by the Sandler Foundation, with Herbert Sandler serving as Chairman of ProPublica; other leading philanthropies also providing important support. A Board of Directors and a Journalism Advisory Board have also been formed.”

Herb and Marion Sandler are prominent California bankers (now retired) and major contributors to liberal causes and candidates. From a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile:

Since the late 1980s, the Sandlers used their wealth to finance a variety of nonprofit organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union and Acorn, the grass-roots organizers. They helped found the Center for Responsible Lending, where they are among the largest benefactors. They are also among the very few philanthropists in the country who finance basic scientific research, at the University of California at San Francisco. And they have set up nonprofits to conduct research into parasitic diseases and asthma. In 2003, they started the Center for American Progress, which is intended to be a liberal counterweight to the heavyweight policy centers of the right, like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. So far, the Sandlers have given around $20 million to the center.

Acorn? So now the man who funded the notoriously secretive, corrupt and hard-left activist group, Acorn, is able to pay his way onto the front page of newspapers like the Albany Times-Union. 

It’s as if George Soros had a free wire service, operating under the guise of “public interest.”

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