MPR Tar Sands Pipeline Story Flawed, Slanted

DAPL protest sign.

Let’s starting watching how the media covers the proposed expansion of a tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota, a project that threatens our environment and provides no significant benefit to Minnesota. Today’s example is MPR’s story: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock.

Quick background: Enbridge Line 3 is a tar sands pipeline that runs from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, via northern Minnesota. Enbridge wants to abandon its old and deteriorating pipeline in the ground. It wants to install a new and larger pipeline, running 337 miles along a new route through northern Minnesota. It would cut through the Mississippi headwaters, threaten lakes and wild rice beds, and violate treaty rights.

The MPR story is deeply flawed.  Starting with the headline, the story raises “threats” and “fears” over the pipeline fight. So the first question to come to mind is: Who is doing the threatening and creating fear?

Here’s how the story sums it up:

Activists are pressing Minnesota officials now to deny the permit and kill the project. State officials and company executives working to head off a confrontation say they’re doing more than ever to listen to the concerns of those in the pipeline’s potential path.

That may not be enough to stop a confrontation.

Comment: In this frame, activists are “pressing” and even trying to “kill” the project. (“Kill” is a violent word.) State officials and company executives, on the other hand, are framed as peacemakers. They are “working” to head off a confrontation. They are doing “more than ever to listen” to concerns. As this frame goes,all that hard work and listening might not be enough to stop the confrontation, the threats, the fears.

You get the picture. This makes the activists seem unreasonable and the state and the company seem reasonable. The people — not the pipeline and the damage it would cause — are the threat.

That’s bunk. Continue reading

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Media Disappoints in Covering Prairie Island’s Nuclear Waste Challenge

Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant (Wikimedia Commons)
Prairie Island Nuclear Power Plant (Wikimedia Commons)

Recent news coverage on the Prairie Island Indian Community offers a great example of how mainstream thinking rushes to equate Native Americans with casinos while downplaying the history of injustice towards Native Americans and their ongoing plight.

Prairie Island recently announced it bought 112 acres of land near St. Paul, in West Lakeland Township. News coverage highlighted speculation that Prairie Island might build a casino there. It’s only lower down in the stories that readers learn that Prairie Island has a tiny and threatened land base. The community is buying new land because it might need to move to safer ground.

People have strong opinions about gambling. The casino rumors provide an emotional trigger for many readers. Getting less priority in the stories (again) is the Native American perspective. Prairie Island residents are worried about flooding and the stockpile of nuclear waste stored right next door. Those issues would be scary issues for anybody.

If the nuclear waste were stored in prominent neighborhoods of St. Cloud, Duluth, or Minneapolis, and people were increasingly nervous and angry about the lack of a long-term solution, that would be the headline. Because a small number of Native people are affected, and because they have no political power, their plight appears to be less newsworthy than a hypothetical casino.

Continue reading