The other day, I attended an energy forum in Arlington, sponsored by overwhelmingly pro-fossil-fuel groups with connections to climate science deniers. I predicted that it would be a travesty, I just didn't realize how much of that travesty would be the result of the media utterly failing to do its job. In short, here's what happened.
1. The place was PACKED with reporters - probably a couple dozen. After the event, there were a bunch of articles published on the forum. In all of those articles by "mainstream media" reporters, I saw basically ZERO analysis of the many false statements (see the video here for a few) made by Ken Cuccinelli in his presentation, and during the Q&A session on stage. I mean, there were literally dozens of lies and distortions by Cuccinelli, including some huge/glaring ones. Yet the supposedly "professional" media - people PAID GOOD MONEY TO DO THIS WORK!!! - couldn't even be bothered to go back and check on any of what Cuccinelli said, let alone clue in readers as to what was true (almost nothing, in Cuccinelli's case) and whats was false (almost every word Cuccinelli uttered). In other words, the "professional" media couldn't be bothered to - or simply refused to - DO ITS JOB. Instead, they went for the cowardly, lazy approach - false equivalency (e.g., "the candidates hurled accusations at each other"), focus on the sound and fury (signifying...what?) but not on the substance, failing to do a bit of research to find out whether the statements made were accurate, talking to energy experts (e.g., at the U.S. Energy Information Administration) who might actually know, etc. Nope, that would all be too much like...I dunno, actual JOURNALISM?!?
3. With regard to the press "scrum" for Cuccinelli, which you can watch here, note that it took a blogger - me in this case - to get good video and quickly post it up on YouTube so everyone could see it. Why couldn't the "mainstream" media do that, given that they have about a gazillion times the financial resources that bloggers like I do? Or is informing the public simply not in their job description, as opposed to checking the box by attending the event and filing the obligatory "candidates attacked each other/there was CONFLICT so pay attention to my article!" story? Ugh.
4. Also in that press scrum, note that there were only TWO questions on energy - again, which was the subject of the candidates forum - and neither of those two questions was asked by a "mainstream media" reporter. In fairness, two reporters (Martin di Caro and one other, who I didn't recognize) tried to pin Cuccinelli down on climate change (note that Cuccinelli refused to answer the question), and I COMMEND them for doing so. Still, those were not questions specifically on energy, which again was the subject of the forum. The final question on CONSOL Energy, for instance, the one that caused Cuccinelli to stalk off in a huff, was asked by this guy, director of the Checks and Balances Project, a "government and industry watchdog group." That's right, it took a "government and industry watchdog group" to ask the question the corporate media wouldn't, or couldn't, ask. Hmmmm.
5. Another major fail was that most of the media which covers Arlington - the Sun Gazette and ArlNow, in particular - didn't cover the event at all, nor did they link to other coverage, nor did they post video of the event, etc. Even worse, the Sun Gazette's right-wing hack/editor wrote that even though he didn't attend the event (he wrote - apparently without any shame - that he "bail"ed after "arriving and surveying the timetable," deciding it was not interesting enough for him to spend two hours of his precious time at!), that he just KNEW that the candidates "spent most of their time - McAuliffe particularly - blasting the other rather than talking about energy, which supposedly was the topic under discussion." But wait, you say, if he wasn't there, how did he know how the candidates spent their time? Hmmm. For the record, it turns out that both candidates talked a LOT about energy - McAuliffe in the Q&A session; Cuccinelli throughout his presentation (although, as I mentioned earlier, almost every word he said was either outright false or highly misleading/deceptive). In no way, shape, or form is it correct to say that McAuliffe spent more of his time "blasting" Cuccinelli then Cuccinelli spent blasting McAuliffe. I recorded the entire Cuccinelli talk (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here), and as you can see, it's an almost unremitting series of (mostly false) attacks on Terry McAuliffe, on renewable energy, on billionaire/environmental activist Tom Steyer, etc, etc.
6. In fairness, let me just say that Jason Spencer of the Patch actually a) covered the event; and b) did a generally thorough, professional job. Unlike the Sun Gazette or ArlNow, that's for sure (among ArlNow's big news items from the day of the energy forum was "Cupcakes to Return to FatShorty's." Hahahahahaha.).
Anyway, the bottom line is that with very few exceptions, the "mainstream media" utterly failed to cover the substance of the energy forum in Arlington this past Thursday. They most certainly DID NOT take Ken Cuccinelli's many false statements and subject them to scrutiny, let alone inform readers as to what was true (almost nothing) and what was a lie (almost everything). That leaves me, your intrepid blogger (aka, not a "real journalist," according to the arrogant-if-nothing-else media) to do just that. Stay tuned...
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