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CleanTechnica Calls Out Slanted, Biased Article on Wind Power

Earlier this week, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported on a new study "by researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [which] found that more than 9 in 10 people who live close to wind turbines view them positively or neutrally." Yet a recent series by GateHouse Media, ominously entitled "In the Shadow of Wind Farms," somehow manages to find the 8% of people who view wind farms negatively and to focus exclusively on them, not on the 92% who are either positive or neutral about neighboring wind farms. 

This type of "reporting" clearly needs to not happen in the first place, of course. But when it does happen, it needs to be debunked loudly, clearly and forcefully. That's why it's good to see an article at CleanTechnica deconstructing GateHouse Media's false, slanted portrait of the U.S. wind industry. Key points from the CleanTechnica article include (note: bolding added for emphasis):

  • "Flaw 1 – GateHouse Media provides no balance and no context. The series is based entirely on the experiences and complaints of a very small minority of homeowners living and working in and around wind turbines."
  • "Flaw 2 – They create a false equivalency by cherry-picking experts to avoid the inconvenience of established, scientific consensus."
  • "Flaw 3 – GateHouse Media ignores widely available facts and data that didn’t support the story’s premise."
  • "The series ends up as a classic case of slanted framing and lopsided reporting. In less charitable terms, the series is a high-production hatchet job."
  • The series was produced by "a college student who was interning at GateHouse for the summer" who admitted, 'I had no idea what I was doing.'”
  • "[T]he 450 families [from which GateHouse built its story] were entirely pulled from the pool of those who spoke in opposition to wind turbines in their communities — completely omitting anyone with a positive story to tell."
  • "Gatehouse built an entire series asserting that wind farms were hurting people based on the complaints of less than 0.45% of people living near wind farms and interviews of fewer than 0.07% of them."
  • GateHouse specifically rejected any positive stories about happy wind farm neighbors, because supposedly "the story of positive experiences had already been written."
  • In contrast to GateHouse Media's negatively biased series, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study noted above finds that "even for those who live less than a half mile from a wind turbine, the number of those who have a 'very positive' experience is double those who have had a 'very negative' experience, and even greater than those who have had a 'negative' and a 'very negative' experience."

It's truly astonishing that such unbalanced, misleading, slanted reporting could pass muster at any serious media company. Yet somehow, this massively flawed series ran in GateHouse Media, to the great disservice of its readers.

P.S. The following comment by CleanTechnica editor Zachary Shahan to the article reference above is well worth reprinting here (bolding added for emphasis).

...Disturbing not just how poor the reporting is...but also how much this wind-bashing is commonplace — even on sites like Slate! Gets to the root of a broader media problem we have right now — is the point of media to get clicks/revenue, or to help inform the public about important matters? Unfortunately, too much of the media now runs off of the assumption of the former. Also, it gets to the need for serious media agencies to have energy experts who really understand the matters that ... matter. Looking at stats for # of stories citing “wind farm complaints” versus actual percentage of families with an issues is just depressing.
Topics: Clean Economy