Moving From a Backwater Story to a Front-Page Beat

Flattau, Edward
June 2004
Nieman Reports;Summer2004, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p6
The article realizes the importance of energy to man's daily existence and that all too often not appreciated, even by the individuals who report regularly on it. Prior to the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, what news coverage there was of energy issues consisted primarily of technical analyses of industrial processes and stories about rate adjustments. Few journalists had either the motivation or time to acquire the know-how this assignment would require. The stories usually had little impact, given that such articles often seemed better suited for geologists, chemists, engineers and statisticians than John Q. Public. As we headed into the 1980s, the fear of oil embargoes and urge of supply forecasts faded with a return to an energy glut. Nonetheless, energy was fast becoming a more expansive and popular story line. Reporters began to flock to this emerging beat and receive more assignments for their enterprise because energy use was increasingly being linked to pollution, various public health issues, transportation questions, wilderness preservation and adequate food and medicine supplies. More recently, energy coverage is branching out to include international terrorism and an evaluation of military strategy. Journalists have reported about how renewable sources of energy tend to be decentralized in contrast to a main power grid and thus less vulnerable to sabotage. Nuclear power plants make tempting targets for attack, and questions have been raised about the quality of their security. Because of its potential for reducing humanity's reliance on dirty fossil fuels, renewable energy has been drawing increased press attention during the past two decades. With so much so much gloom and doom in the daily renditions of news, the prospect of clean , renewable energy sources, such as sun and wind power, has become grist for upbeat features.


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