Climate Change as seen through the Keystone Pipeline

Climate change is a massive issue, which means that it comes up in many stories that the news cover. Each of the smaller events or stories that climate change is tied to can have an impact on what people think about the larger global warming dilemma.  One recent issue that has been tied to climate change is the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. This past Friday, the State Department released an environmental assessment about the proposed pipeline which sparked a lot of different news stories. I have links to two of these stories below. How is climate change represented in theses stories? How do these stories differ in terms of the way they present climate change and this recent development? Does one seem to present the issue with less bias? Why or why not?

Article 1

Article 2

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4 Responses to “Climate Change as seen through the Keystone Pipeline”

  1. Maria,

    It seemed to me that Article 1 (“State Department releases Keystone XL final environmental impact statement”) was somewhat more objective in presenting this information than Article 2. I thought its authors, Elperin and Mufson, did a good job interviewing representatives from both sides of the issue, letting the reader form their own opinion without feeding them leading information.

    In comparison, Article 2 seemed slightly more conservatively biased. Even just from the title, “U.S. report on Keystone indicates little climate impact”, the article is already feeding a certain angle to the reader. Furthering this bias, throughout the story the author, Cohen, uses non-neutral descriptions of the pipeline’s opposers:
    “Environmentalists reacted with predictable fury, accusing the government of bad intent by releasing the report before an inspector general’s findings on whether it was flawed because some participants had oil industry ties”, as the words “fury”, “accusing”, and “bad” work to polarize the two sides, making the environmentalists seem almost like radical extremists. Even the word “environmentalist” is somewhat laden with social connotation, as opposed using a term like “environmental activist” or simply listing the name and status of that person opposing the pipeline, as Elperin and Mufson do.

    I think it’s great that you posted these articles because it’s important to be aware of the existence of biases in professional journalism today, and the effect they can have on the polarization of certain issues that needn’t be.

  2. So I went into the first article thinking I would be able to pull some clear biases out and be able to tell you my opinions on it. Really all I can say is that it was a pretty thorough piece. They outlined the State Department’s statement, they covered President Obama’s opinion on the pipeline proposal, and then interviewed people who either were pleased with the statement or not. Altogether it was a well researched, if not relatively dry, piece.

    The second article, on the other hand, was biased from the get-go. They titled the article to provoke emotion before the reader even begins to read the piece. I feel like this is an often-used strategy, but as always it is disappointing to see CNN stoop to that level. In contrast to the previous article where the authors bounce back and forth from opinion to opinion, this piece has more of a sandwich style. It begins informational (and prejudiced), then states the GOPs opinion, then the “environmentalist” opinion, and then talks about how difficult it will be for democrats to get reelected. Neither of the arguments you hear from the opposing sides are well framed by fact, nor are they very compelling arguments in and of themselves.

    You found some really great contrasting examples of styles of journalism! I completely believe that it is especially important to realize these differences when you’re dealing with heated issues such as climate change and to be able to ask yourself the right questions.

  3. I was surprised by how one subject can be portrayed so differently in the two articles. I think it’s interesting that the Washington Post concluded with Senator Kerry and CNN with President Obama. As a reader that is not too involved or up-to-date with politics, this makes me think that perhaps CNN may have a more important or significant point of view, although this should not be the case.

    I noticed that the titles of the two articles differed greatly. The CNN article used the word “indicates”. This makes me think that the author may be somewhat biased and that the reader is not getting the whole story from an objective point of view. On the other hand, the Washington Post used a more straightforward title.

    I think it’s interesting that both authors interviewed Jones. However, they provided different information. In the CNN article, Cohen used Jones’s statement saying that oil from the tar will produce 17% more carbon emissions. Eilperin and Mufson from the Washington Post only mentioned Jones’s statements regarding the report. From reading the CNN article, I got the impression that the Keystone will not benefit the environment. However, the Washington Post led me to think that the Keystone could have some sort of benefit because there is still uncertainty about how the “project would fit into the broader national and international efforts to address climate change”. I think that Cohen was biased about using Jones’s statement without any context.

    I really enjoyed reading the two articles you chose! It encouraged me to question what I read on the news and to think for myself. I think that it is important for readers to recognize biases in journalism so that they can see issues objectively so they can understand the issue from their own point of view.

  4. Without prompting, it would have been easy to overlook the bias mentioned in earlier posts. Yet, the bias is right there, in the hook. It’s in the first sentence. The WP article presents the issue and presents two sides (“… proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be unlikely to alter global greenhouse gas emissions, but officials cautioned”…) while the CNN article brings out the drama of the report–almost snubbing those who expected the report to have negative conclusions (“”long awaited…” and the dash used later highlights the decision.” This bias may come from different desires on how to frame the story, not just on the authors’ opinions of the issue. Take the CNN article: the quotations used are much more argumentative. “This document will be seen by the entire environmental community … as a sham,” complained Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva; Mr. President, no more stalling, no more excuses,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell”; “”I will not be satisfied with any analysis that does not accurately document what is really happening on the ground”. Most of the WP’s quotes, on the other hand, are about how to frame the report rather than people’s opinion on the report and on oil sands. The one exception is WP’s quote of said she felt a “gut-wrenching pain for my kids” when she read the report. She said it made her question her past support of Obama and Kerry. “If they can’t get it done, what am I hoping for?” which comes off as a cliche attempt to get a personal anecdote. Although it’s not a steadfast rule, the following is a trend as seen in these quotes: a bias is also that the CNN author portrays the argumentative issue of the report more than the WP article.

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