Politics, Environment, and How to Effectively Report on The Two

This week we were assigned readings that discussed environmental politics, which can often be a topic that is met with opposing opinions and often much confusion from the public. The New York Times recently published an article “Obama Tells Donors of Tough Politics of Environment” written by Michael Shear. President Obama states, “If we’re going to deal with climate change in a serious way, then we’ve got to have folks in Congress, even when it’s not politically convenient, to talk about it and advocate for it.” Now more than ever, environmental topics are in the limelight of political debate and it is absolutely necessary that the public becomes engaged with these sorts of articles.

Please read the article and share your thought about this news piece and the author’s approach in reporting this topic.

Please consider any of the following questions below:

– Did the journalist do a good job of keeping personal bias out of this story?

– Could you figure out the author’s political preference by reading this article?

– Did you understand the main point that the author was trying to make?

– How did you feel about the author including President Obama’s quote about Kamal D. Harris? Did you feel that this was unnecessary information? Do you think it was included to create a specific reaction from the audience?

– Was this piece written so that the general public would be able to understand the political situation surrounding this specific aspect of environmental politics?

– What did you think about the picture at the beginning of the article? Did it fit in with the main idea of the article?

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5 Responses to “Politics, Environment, and How to Effectively Report on The Two”

  1. I’m looking forward to speaking to your class on Friday. Two pieces of this article stand out to me that are relevant to what Jack and I will be discussing.

    1) “But he acknowledged that it is hard to sell aggressive environmental action — like reducing pollution from power plants — to Americans who are still struggling in a difficult economy to pay bills, buy gas and save for retirement.”

    One topic on Friday will be the failed 25 by 25 proposal that was on the 2012 ballot. I think one (of many) important issue to explore is the public’s attention to “large impact” issues in correlation to feelings of job security, cost of living, and long-term savings. I’d be interested in thoughts regarding personal priorities, attention span, lifestyle, attitude toward government, and focus on news outlets (time and type).

    2) “Earlier in the evening, the president said he was eager to work with Republicans who were willing to compromise. But he said he needed more Democrats to fully achieve an agenda his adversaries were trying to block.”

    The idea of promoting compromise on an issue that – in the very same sentence – is also identified as a potential campaign platform issue.

    This also poses the question: in an issue area which is usually not highly covered by the media and thus not of public interest, does strong media coverage of an environmental issue (e.g. the Keystone Pipeline) promote or dissuade political compromise as opposed to an issue that presents political opportunity?

    Also: with these questions in mind, what is the larger role of the media as an avenue of education and dialogue in policymaking and what might be considered more responsible or irresponsible reporting methods?

    More to come… thought these might be an interesting place to get started.

  2. This article seems to favor opponents of the pipeline, but I find it to be well balanced; the quote he presents, are about Obama’s speeches and, from those, it does seems like Obama recognizes the problems of XL. Although the connotations of the protesters comes off as extremist, the XL opposition POV is balanced by the President’s rationality and credibility. That said, I would have added a quote from an XL pipeline proponent in addition to the protesters.

    Even though the article is a report of the event more than Keystone, I find the quote about the Attorney General to be misplaced, and it does a poor job of explaining contexts to laypeople. It doesn’t add anything to the article per se, the Keystone news, or argument on the topic–but I guess it does report “the facts” of the event. What is this fundraising event for exactly? How many others are there? Why are proponents of XL paying for this event–especially to have Obama speak about it being controversial?

    I think the picture provides a setting for where the article “takes place”, but it doesn’t add to the article. It doesn’t tell me what it is going to be about just by looking at it. All I see is “Obama in San Francisco.” There is no real message from it. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think the photographer/author could have done more.

  3. Nabila,

    I agree that the article was well-balanced and unbiased of the author’s personal political opinion. However, what bothered me most was the insertion of that quote about Kamal D. Harris. The main focus of the article was the matter of environmental politics, and it seemed this quote served only to highlight an uncomfortable and unrelated moment of the fundraiser in Atherton. It isn’t mentioned again, or explained, so I found it to be very detracting from the article’s purpose.

    However, the rest of the article served its purpose well in my opinion. I think the reader is able to understand both sides of the issue clearly, but I do agree with Ben that there is more setting than substance presented at times. I also found myself wondering what the “fundraiser” was for.

  4. Related to Jason’s comment,

    That has been an issue that has been very interesting to me regarding the politics surrounding climate change. some republicans and others who are against strong climate change legislation arguing that such a radical change will surely lead to job insecurity and energy shortages. A false dichotomy has been constructed that prompts American voters to choose either economic safety and well-being or environmental responsibility when they really don’t have to, something that is supported by Obama’s statement that short-term economic gain should not take total precedence over the energy options of the future.
    Unfortunately, it still seems that Obama is unwilling to take any major steps towards addressing climate change and instead decides to make our newest “accomplishment” a main focus in his speeches, which only fuels the idea held by some that business-as-usual is acceptable and sufficient.

    Also, I found the use of quotes in this article to be interesting, I’m not sure what the writer was going for in some instances. For example, the quote about the good-looking attorney general seems out of place in my opinion.

  5. I think the author lets some of his biases show in this article in some of his descriptions–like of the people hosting/attending the fundraising events–and especially with the paragraph regarding President Obama’s quote about Kamala D. Harris which is very distracting from the main idea of the article.

    In response to the question Jason posed at the end of his response: I believe that the media plays an important role in the dialogue of policymaking by keeping the people who will be voting on these potential policies accurately informed. That being said, I think that sometimes with controversial issues such as the Keystone Pipeline helps to promote political compromise by releasing the good and bad information regarding these policies to the public to let them decide.

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