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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Marinucci claims SF Chron didn't report Obama's promise to "bankrupt" coal industry and cause "skyrocketing" electric rates because readers weren't interested

My team lost the election, but in this follow-up guest-post about Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry and make electric rates skyrocket over at HughHewitt.com, I believe I thrashed the San Francisco Chronicle soundly.

I suspect they've gotten over it already, huh?

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

On Sunday, November 2nd, like many other bloggers, I wrote a long post that included a lengthy quotation from an interview that Sen. Barack Obama gave to the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board in January 2008, in which Sen. Obama promised that under his cap and trade policy, "if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted." And in that same interview, Obama also promised that "[u]nder my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

In the wee small hours of Monday morning, I followed up on that post with another which noted that — in response to a question being raised by Gov. Palin on the campaign trail as to why the tape of this interview was just now surfacing — Chronicle Political Writer Carla Marinucci was righteously asserting that her newspaper had never "hidden" the interview. I pointed out, however, that in neither the front-page news story that Ms. Marinucci had written about the interview on January 18, 2008, nor in a follow-up op-ed about the interview from Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz, had the Chronicle seen fit to give anyone the slightest hint that buried within the 52 minutes and 336MB of the interview one might find a promise to bankrupt the nation's coal industry or cause national electric rates to skyrocket.

This, I argued, reflected abysmal judgment as to what portions of the interview were newsworthy. I asserted that "anyone working for a junior high school newspaper would have instantly realized the newsworthiness of these quotes if he or she were not completely 'in the tank' for Obama."

After posting my critique, I emailed Ms. Marinucci with a copy of it. I wrote to her that "I’d be pleased to republish any response you might have, or reconsider with any additional facts you believe I’ve missed."

Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Marinucci sent me this reply, which (in a later email) she specifically authorized me to reprint here in its entirety for your thoughtful consideration:

Simple answer. This was an editorial board meeting to decide the endorsement for the Democratic primary in California, at the time a heated contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

There were lots of issues that California voters wanted to hear from these candidates as they made their decision, but coal was not one of them. The industry doesn't exist here. We wrote about what our readers wanted to hear about regarding the choice between Obama and Clinton at that time: their positions on the war, jobs, tech, the environment, etc.

This response, while gracious, is utterly unpersuasive. In fact, it's so preposterous as to be even more damning than her earlier "we didn't hide it" defense.

The last I heard, California still uses electricity — and some 56 percent of America's electricity is generated from coal. Indeed, it was a series of rolling electrical brownouts and blackouts in California from 2001-2003 which led directly to the mid-term removal of Gov. Gray Davis in the special election won by present Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. For Ms. Marinucci to suggest that the Chronicle's readers aren't interested in supplies, sources, and prices of electricity is far beyond ludicrous. It's like suggesting that Boston wasn't interested in taxes on tea in the 1770s.

Moreover, while I can appreciate that there is presently no coal mining industry to speak of in the fabled hills of and around San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle — founded in 1865, presently owned by the Hearst Corporation, and still "the largest newspaper in Northern California and the second largest on the West Coast" — aspires to be a national publication. I've listened to the full interview now, and I can assure you that almost none of the questions asked in it were specific and particular to the concerns of San Franciscans or even northern Californians.

In fact, the long response from Sen. Obama which contained the promise to bankrupt the coal industry was prompted by a question (at 25:10 in the videotape) that was indeed on one of the specific topics — "the environment" — which Ms. Marinucci acknowledges her paper's readers wanted to hear about:

Q: Senator, you introduced a bill promoting coal-to-liquid fuels, and then you said you'd only support them if they emitted fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline. Now: All the scientific evidence points to coal being dirtier than pretty much anything else. So how are you going to square your support for coal with the need to fight global warming?

Indeed, in the long block-quoted segment in my Sunday post that I obtained from ABC News' Jake Tapper and his Political Punch blog, there was an ellipsis in the transcript. Viewing the video, I've confirmed that what that transcription omitted was a repetition of this question:

OBAMA: ... So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives. But —

Q: Alternatives including coal?

OBAMA: — let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there....

If there is a place on the globe more fixated on the notion of man-made global warming than San Francisco, I haven't seen or heard of it. These questions about relying on coal to generate electricity certainly reflect that, regardless of whether coal is mined in northern California. And Sen. Obama's answers almost certainly would have been not only of keen interest, but entirely acceptable, to the liberal majority who subscribe to the Chronicle. Could the Chronicle's table-full of writers and editors all have collectively missed that?

No, gentle readers, it is entirely implausible that Ms. Marinucci and the Chronicle failed to recognize the newsworthiness of these promises by Obama — not just to their own readers, but to all Americans (and arguably to the entire world). And that brings us back to the question of why they didn't report something that was so incredibly newsworthy, and why — after it was found and then made much of by others, including the GOP candidates for POTUS and VPOTUS — they've offered such lame excuses.

And there's only one plausible answer left to that question: Carla Marinucci and her fellow writers and editors at the San Francisco Chronicle deliberately buried these quotes because they knew that in other parts of the United States, they would hurt the electoral prospects of Barack Obama — the candidate they wanted to see win not only the Democratic primary, but also the general election. These are "journalists" who've violated their sacred trust. And you simply can't trust them any more, if you ever did.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:44 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, Mainstream Media, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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