Queasy for the Truth

The cure: jane austen

For the first time in a long time I experienced vertigo as a direct “emergency beacon” from my intuition.  It happened this morning while I listened to a report on the Bay Delta by the environmental reporter at Capital Public Radio.  The reporter went to Guisti’s restaurant in Walnut Grove and interviewed people who made wild statements about their businesses shutting down and alfalfa not available. None of their statements were founded in fact.  And then they interviewed Doug Hemly, a pear grower and an outspoken opponent of the project.

A preliminary map (from 2 years ago), when there were 5 intakes on the river, showed construction taking his historic family home. But for many months now he has known from direct communication from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) that the project has been reduced to 3 intakes and that his house is not in the path of construction.  Yet he says in the news story that his house will be destroyed. And the reporter adds what a beautiful historic home it is.

It is beautiful. I have been in Doug and Cathy’s home several times as part of discussions about how to avoid or minimize impacts of the project. And I know that he knows that many of his recommendations have been taken and that his home is not in the path (I actually remember telling him directly).

I am disappointed that he chose to misrepresent the situation in his vociferous opposition to the project.  I can understand (and not agree) that he thinks the end justifies the means.

But what is this reporter’s excuse?  She clearly did not check the “facts” in her story.  I believe my vertigo partially resulted from realizing that a trusted source of information cannot be trusted. If they so mishandle this story, then their journalistic standards must be very different than mine.  In this segment she did not include any information from the Natural Resources Agency or DWR or anyone connected with the Plan.

My reaction is probably exaggerated somewhat by media coverage of the federal government shutdown, which appears to be very confused with comparisons to a game of chicken, not a hostage situation.

Of course these are perceptions, but they can be supported by facts, such as Boehner and Reid had a deal that would have produced spending authorization without restrictions on the Affordable Care Act until Boehner admitted to George Stephanopolous, the Republicans decided to “take a stand”.  As Jon Stewart points out, if the Republicans choose to shut the government down for a principal, then own it.

It can be so hard to make sense of our world. We do use story with metaphors and poetic language to convey news and information. We are designed to seek meaning in events. This is why our selection of language is so important.  This is why when someone so abuses it I sometimes experience vertigo.

P.S. The Public Information Officer for DWR called the reporter and informed her that the story was factually incorrect. The reporter said, well I called my source and he confirmed that he didn’t know. Apparently she missed the day in journalism class when they explained that fact checking is verifying with a third party.

When they reran the story at 4:30, Capital Public Radio did add a sentence that said DWR says the Hemly house will not be affected.  Considering the entire story was bogus, I guess it is something.

5 thoughts on “Queasy for the Truth

  1. I’m with you! CPR does terrible reporting in general – I usually flip channels when it’s one of their stories. Still, considering the week-long focus on one issue, you’d think they could get that right.

  2. When one knows facts at first hand and then comes to read about them in the media vertigo is almost always guaranteed. Why should one believe *anything* in the media? The pursuit of ‘Truth’ is indeed dizzying, but recovery is simple: sit down in the shade with a large glass of wine.

  3. I heard the story. It was done by the Center for Investigative Reporting (http://cironline.org/) for Capital Public Radio. We recently had a very similar experience with that same organization, and it was quite frustrating. I’m not even in communications but I can identify with your queasy feeling. Hang in there…….

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