Sunday, August 31, 2008

When It Comes to Doing Its Job, CNBC Won't Drill

From what little I've seen of what passes for news journalism on TV, I'd already been unimpressed. But I was still shocked by what I saw on Meet the Press today.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's choice for his running mate, was the topic of the segment I saw. Maria Bartiromo came on to talk about her interview with Gov. Palin, which was to be aired on her show after Meet the Press. Ms Bartiromo didn't report the news. Instead, she gave us her opinions. Ms Bartiromo said,
I think the biggest value [Gov. Palin] brings to the ticket is her expertise in energy. This is her comfort zone. She made a very compelling case to me that the area that we're talking about that is being debated about whether or not to drill, ANWR, as you mentioned, is 2000 acres in a 20,000,000-acre plain. This is her comfort zone. This is really what she's overseeing. Alaska is one of the few oil-rich areas we have in this country alone....So this is a very, very important piece of the picture and I think she brings great value there, making the point that it is a small swath of land and it really will not impact the wildlife, as of course is the concern, because we've got caribou and bears and moose there, and the upset or the worry is that it's going to impact the breeding of the wildlife. She feels very strongly that that is not the case. And I think that that knowledge of energy is going to be very important for the McCain ticket.

When Tom Brokaw asked Ms Bartiromo about Gov. Palin's expertise in other economic issues “of the day” besides energy, such as the liquidity crisis, she replied, "I don't think that she's necessarily well versed in the liquidity crunch, but I think she came across so strong with regard to economic matters as they relate to energy and as they relate to overall economic growth." She sounded like a high school sophomore trying to make an argument, deflecting a question that she saw as a threat to her case that "it was a very savvy pick, actually."

There's a lot of talk of balance in the news, with people on the left decrying the "MSM" for being corporate shills too afraid of Bush to report the real news, and people on the right slamming the media for being "liberal." But it's worse than that.

I know I’m not saying anything original here, but it bears repeating: the problem is that so much of the "news" is not really news at all. When people talk about "balance" they're talking about providing balanced opinions. I don't want balanced opinions – I want the damn news!

Ms Bartiromo, in this case, did not describe for us Gov. Palin's energy expertise; had not done an ounce of research about ANWR in order to be able to provide more information and context on the controversy when it came up, or to do more than lob softballs at the Governor; and did not describe other people's assessments of Gov. Palin's expertise in economic and energy issues. Instead, Ms Bartiromo gave us her opinions based on what appeared to be a Barbara Walters-like interview. What I learned from Ms Bartiromo is that she thinks that Gov. Palin has energy and economic expertise – I did not learn anything about Gov. Palin's expertise.


It can be argued that I should accept Ms Bartiromo’s assessment of Gov. Palin’s expertise. She is, after all, host of CNBC’s The Wall Street Journal Report, and she did interview the Governor. Well, I watched the interview (see the clip below – unfortunately I couldn't find the entire interview online), and still learned nothing. Actually, that’s not true; I did learn that Gov. Palin seems to think that we’re in Iraq for oil – and here I’d thought that only some anti-war protestors said that!

Gov. Palin said that there’s really nothing remarkable about ANWR, repeating the pro-drilling argument that, since it’s not on postcards, ANWR can’t possibly be ecologically significant. She also said that the proposed drilling site, the "1002 area," is only 2000 acres, analogous to a postage stamp on a football field. Ms Bartiromo didn’t ask about any of the anti-drilling responses to the Governor’s arguments: nothing about the coastal plain being extremely narrow (15–40 miles), or about the porcupine caribou’s extreme sensitivity to disturbance and its avoidance of roads and other human activity by up to a mile. Ms Bartiromo did not point out that it wasn’t a bunch of Democrats who assessed the 1002 area’s ecological value as "high" and concluded that development impacts would be "significant," but rather the Biological Research Division of the USGS. Nor did Ms Bartiromo ask Gov. Palin about the argument that the fruits of any drilling work in ANWR would not come to be in other 20–30 years, or that the impact of the estimated amount of oil there would have no significant impact on the global supply – and therefore the price – of oil.

From what I’ve read about ANWR, I do fall on the anti-drilling side; I am therefore always eager to hear good, well-reasoned arguments supporting drilling. I did not hear them from Gov. Palin. Instead, her arguments were very simplistic, and have already been addressed again and again. For this reason, I need more than Ms Bartiromo's opinions about Gov. Palin's expertise.


Anonymous said...

She's making an analysis of how Palin helps McCain, not expressing a personal endorsement of here, f'chrissakes.

And Palin is right in saying that the techno-phobic left was wrong about the impact of the Alaska Pipeline.

Besides, Bartolemeo is bangin' hot.

Annie said...

Valiant request for real news, Nick.

Unfortunately, murky "journalism" is everywhere. Most of what we see, hear, read is info-tainment created on the assumption that we are not thinkers - that we need/want information spun to us.

Exhausting. Insulting.

Let me know if you find any news out there.

Nick Peterson said...

I think if any commentator described Obama as an "energy expert" that person would be laughed out of the room. Gov. Palin may be an energy expert, but Ms Bartiromo didn't seem to feel the need to explain how; instead, the Governor came off as, well, the governor of an oil-rich state. In the end, I think Ms Bartiromo's presentation amounted to advocacy.

Re: The pipeline, I haven't done the research on it to know for sure that it hasn't caused damage. But assuming it didn't, to ignore any the concerns of the USGS (how that's "the left," I don't know) because of a faulty prediction from the 1970s is like refusing to take your five-year-old daughter to the pediatrician for a check-up because pediatricians were wrong about a few things 30 years ago. Science is not perfect -- it's the consensus of human beings. And the environmental sciences were nascent 30 years ago.