Response: ProPublica (Alyssa Mosher)

Posted: February 2, 2011 by Alyssa Mosher in #3 Propublica

Fifty comments in just over 58 hours.

When I set my eyes on Abrahm Lustgarten’s article “Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated”, I knew I was going to read some good journalism. Climate change and global warming have always interested me for more than the obvious reasons. When Al Gore came out with An Inconvenient Truth, I have to admit, I was totally mesmerized by his. I couldn’t believe that we had allowed ourselves to literally soil our planet.

But ever since that first hype, I’ve been skeptical about global warming too. I don’t deny that it exists like certain scientists. I’m just a bit wary about the different “goals” nations make. Just two weeks ago, Fredericton became the first city east of B.C. to complete the fifth and final milestone with the Partners for Climate Protection Program. After doing a TV story on this, I found out that the milestone only meant that the City had taken five steps to reducing greenhouse gases. We don’t even know if we’ve reduced them enough to meet our own specific percentage goal. Weird, eh?

My point is that ProPublica’s story on the not-so-beneficial natural gas is something that needed to be done. Everyone knows how bad coal and oil are and the U.S. thinks natural gas is the solution. But what ProPublica finds out is that natural gas isn’t as “emission-friendly” as everyone thinks. While it may be cleaner than oil or coal, according to Lustgarten, it’s clearly not the final answer. I think his article suggests that people start creating this false “betterment” – while it may be better than the latter, it’s not the best and we can’t stop there. The research that went into this piece was awesome. It’s something I’d hope to do in the future – if they’ll have me…

Like we were saying in class last week, there just isn’t space for this kind of investigative journalism in newspapers. That’s one of the great things about ProPublica. I always thought it would be harder to read on a screen – and it used to be. I was never able to read feature-length pieces on the web – let alone stay focused in a long email. But now I’m finding it easier to stay focused because organizations are really starting to perfect the medium – at least ProPublica is.

What I really liked about the formatting of this article was that there weren’t very many – if any – ads popping up and distracting me. The page was clean-cut, nothing was cutting into the article and the font was big (key factor). One thing that daunted me when I decided to read “Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated” however, was the size of its scrolling bar. It was so small, that I was sure the article was going to be 30 pages long. But to my surprise – and astonishing disappointment – more than half of the scrolling space was dedicated to comments. I couldn’t believe it. Fifty comments in just over 58 hours. And some were really long (at least for an online comment) and might I add, not well researched.

I think that is it really great that online media offers a constant dialogue between members of the public no matter where they live. Some of them have really constructive things to say like Karl Stevens did on Jan. 27 at 2:48 a.m:

These types of articles are useful, but they avoid the real issues. It is not about cleaner or less clean energy sources. It is about how we need to immediately change our lifestyles and infrastructure to greatly reduce energy consumption, as soon as possible.

Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong, but he said something useful. But sometimes these comments can be far beyond useful. In fact, they can be completely destructure and I find it extremely frustrating. Just have a  look. You’ll get what I’m saying.

But what I did understand from these comments was that ProPublica is a very well-credited publication. (And to think I just heard of it from this class.) But that’s what crazes me the most is that this is investigative journalism – the digging deep, the grimy details, the menacing research – and it’s all online.

We can do that?



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