REPORTER’S DIARY: SARIKA BANSAL’S TEDX TALK ON SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM By Sarika Bansal for Solutions Journalism Network I recently had the good fortune of giving a TEDx talk about solutions journalism. As my colleague Courtney reminded me, it was […]
Just as Public Herald journalists, Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic, brought the results of their investigative study to the screen, the editorial touted talking points delivered by Governor Corbett on a recent visit to Erie. He was hoping to persuade voters that his job creation record is not as dismal as it seems (Pennsylvania has gone from 6th to 45th during his tenure despite the promise of Marcellus Shale jobs). Environmentalists are not “turning up their noses” at jobs in the natural gas industry for frivolous reasons. These teachers, doctors, farmers, business owners and families are concerned about mounting evidence that unconventional natural gas drilling affects the water we drink and the air we breathe. We have the right to clean water and clean air, which, by the way, is guaranteed in Section 1 Article 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Triple Divide moves beyond the sensationalism of Gasland with science, fact-based reporting and personal stories from Pennsylvania’s shale fields. The filmmakers and a former employee of a natural gas company, whose job was to mitigate and sometimes cover up “mistakes,” urged citizens to pay attention. Hold local media accountable for reporting all of the stories, not just those from gas industry insiders, they said.
In this remarkable video by Adam Pletts for Al Jazeera, [7:59] a former real-estate construction manager turned media activist states, “It was impossible before the revolution to make a media centre or publish any photo or video against the regime.” Sitting on the floor, snacking and smoking cigarettes in a village guarded by the Free Syrian Army, a team of media activists points to coverage by Reuters on the T.V. and have differing opinions about editing the team’s video content for distribution. One main debate surrounds how much “flesh and blood” is too much to show before it’s too shocking for people to even watch. The former construction manager, who now serves as media coordinator, states, “This discussion is normal and necessary. For 50 years the regime took only one side and never listened to the others sides. So if I behave the same way now, I will be behaving like the regime.” But later [16:05] he seems to contradict himself: “I am an activist, only an activist. I am with the revolution, so I will only tell this side.”
For us at Public Herald, 2012 was the ‘Year of the Snake.’ We’ve been intimately connected to water while shooting and editing our first documentary film Triple Divide, that began as a small project in 2011 but blossomed into a 95-minute Public Herald Studios production about fracking in the Marcellus Shale region. Like the water snake, we’ve been holed up in our Pennsylvania editing “den” for much of the year, only venturing out to devour necessary sustenance — truth and creativity — as the drama of deep shale extraction unfolds. Snakes get a bad rap, even in the oil and gas industry. Timber rattlesnakes are an issue near drill rigs in the mountain regions of northern and central PA, but are also protected as a vulnerable keystone-state species due to habitat destruction. “So what?” some may say, “what’s so bad about less poisonous snakes?” But snakes are only poisonous if you’re bitten. And the best prevention from a bite is being aware of, and intimately connected to, one’s surroundings.
The dangers are clear. As PR becomes ascendant, private and government interests become more able to generate, filter, distort, and dominate the public debate, and to do so without the public knowing it. "What we are seeing now is the demise of journalism at the same time we have an increasing level of public relations and propaganda," McChesney said. "We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country."