Flipping The News Script In 2017
Our final list—we promise!—for 2017 comprises a collection of stories that either landed just outside our top social media hits or were left on the cutting room floor for our editors’ picks. Their significance still shines in different way—these stories “flipped the script” on conventional thinking or challenged a dominant news media narrative found elsewhere. As was typical of Western Wire’s diverse coverage in 2017, they reflect a broad interest in going beyond headlines for what Paul Harvey famously called, “the rest of the story.”
Here are our top picks for stories you won’t find anywhere else, thanks to Western Wire:
For anti-fossil fuel groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, the change was offensive. But for Montana State Senator and President of Boilermakers Local #11, Jason Small, the change was welcome. “I don’t see anything at all wrong with the picture,” Small told Western Wire. “As a matter of fact, I think that’s a fairly impressive seam of coal, to tell you the honest truth,” he joked. Rather than another example of the news media “catering to the vocal minority,” Small said, it demonstrated “that not everybody in the country is offended by natural resource extraction.”
A large protest planned for Lincoln, Nebraska to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in August may have went off without a hitch, but it would not have been possible without hundreds of protestors bussed in by national anti-fossil fuel groups on chartered deluxe motor coaches. The Sierra Club and 350.org, who were also co-sponsors of the protest march, organized the bus transportation for the “March to Give Keystone XL the Boot” from Denver, Colo. (including Wyoming); Wisconsin/Illinois/Iowa; Wichita, Kan.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Kansas City, Mo.; and South Dakota. The “56-Passenger Luxury Motorcoaches” chartered from Ramblin Express are powered by Cummins diesel engines, come full of comforts like temperature control, pull-down flat screen TVs, free WiFi, and mood lighting.
In an attempt to distract local news media in Oklahoma, The Coalition for Oklahoma’s Renewable Energy and Earthworks reissued a 2015 report they claimed showed “invisible oil spills” at oil and gas facilities in Oklahoma using infrared cameras. Western Wire’s initial report showed that most of the material was unoriginal, but also drew attention to the lack of substantive data from on-site testing to corroborate the activists’ claims. This prompted a follow up by local Oklahoma media to ask an Earthworks representative if air testing was done in addition to the purported photographic evidence, generating a startling admission—“Unfortunately, neither EarthWorks nor CORE has the resources to do air testing at all the oil and gas sites we visit.”
Western Wire has also been a media watchdog, pouncing on examples when appropriate. One such example from the New York Times caught our attention when a story was edited to prop up groups like Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council at the expense of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Despite the large volume of correspondence between Mr. Pruitt’s office and the industry players, the emails are unlikely to cause Mr. Pruitt significant new problems,” the newspaper first reported. Later, that line and another were deleted, enhancing the claims of the anti-fossil fuel activists.
A coordinated day of protests organized by groups seeking to ban the production of oil, natural gas, and coal, including 350.org, Sierra Club, and NextGen Climate, to culminate in the “People’s Climate March” was scheduled for late April in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country to protest the Trump administration’s environmental policies. The threat of a major snowstorm in the Denver area threatened to put those plans on ice with at least one postponement. “Sometimes Mother Nature throws you a curveball!” 350 Colorado Springs wrote in a Facebook page ahead of the storm. “Dangerous conditions and wet heavy snow in the forecast for tomorrow. Stay safe and warm and join us Sunday afternoon same time and place!!”
Blue-collar Democrats appreciated the new administration’s focus on moving forward with two large oil and gas infrastructure projects that were delayed or thwarted prior to the 2016 election.“The Keystone Pipeline was stalled, delayed and ultimately blocked by the previous Administration to appease extremist environmentalists, reducing working class men and women to pawns in an elitist game,” Laborers International Union of North America General President Terry O’Sullivan said. The North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU) also issued a statement praised moves the said gave “hope to thousands of skilled craft construction professionals in America’s heartland.”