Coastal Review is rolling up its sleeves to cover all the bases:
This is the first of more than 40 stories that we will publish over the next two months on offshore drilling and its potential effects on the N.C. coast. In our most ambitious reporting project, seven reporters have spent several months talking to dozens of people trying to determine what drilling might mean to the state’s coastal environment, economy and lifestyle.
We’ll run the results of all that reporting on alternate weeks, starting this week with stories about the history of drilling in North Carolina, the geology of the Atlantic Ocean and why oil or gas might be out there, the federal process that manages offshore drilling and the politics in Raleigh that are promoting it.
We'll try to bring these installments to our readers here at BlueNC, but since that's over a year-and-a-half's-worth of articles, we may miss a few. I'd also like to issue a fair warning to the rest of the news media: Much of the information provided to them, especially from the Governor's office, will be heavily tainted by industry lobbyists. Not only do you need to double- and triple-check the data, you also need to expose the relationship that produced that tainted data:
“It would be alarming I think for many people if they found out that some of the biggest polluters were running a governors group, but less so if it’s a nonprofit,” said Nick Surgey, director of research at the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal advocacy group. “That one step removed stops the alarm bells going off, but it should really concern people.”
There’s been little effort to explain CEA’s relationship with the coalition, which is currently chaired by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. The coalition’s website made no mention of CEA until recently, when one page was edited — after the Center began reporting this article — to acknowledge the organization provides “information and administrative support.” In March, when the Center first asked who staffs the coalition, Ryan Tronovich, a spokesman for McCrory, said the governors provide the staff (records show Tronovich actually consulted with CEA to answer the Center’s questions). When the Center asked again after learning of CEA’s involvement, Tronovich said in an email that he “should have been more clear,” and compared CEA’s help to that given by an intern. (The Republic Report, an investigative news website, first reported a possible connection with CEA in February when it noted that a coalition letter appeared to have been written by Joubert.)
Earlier this month, the McCrory administration organized a meeting with federal officials to discuss Atlantic drilling; no other governors were there, but staff representing the governors of South Carolina and Virginia did attend. McCrory administration staffers told journalists and environmental organizations that the meeting was closed to interest groups so as not to “allow for the potential of the appearance of influence.” In fact, CEA and other industry groups did attend the meeting. Nadia Luhr, the legislative counsel for the North Carolina Conservation Network, wrote a letter to the administration protesting the circumstances of the meeting. She had not previously been aware of CEA’s role in the coalition, but indicated she wasn’t surprised.
“It’s just another example,” she said, “of industry having a voice where no one else does.”
This article was published last November in Time Magazine, which is just one more example of national news orgs reporting things that many local/state NC news outlets overlook, or are simply too skittish to publish. If it were merely lying politicians, that absent reporting would be bad enough. But when you have billion-dollar fossil fuel front groups controlling the Governor's strings, we're not just talking about propaganda streams, we're talking about the subversion of democracy. There is no bigger story than that, no stronger mandate for reporting. And no larger failure if it's not reported.