Bad Vetting by CNN’s iReport?
Five days ago CNN’s iReport posted an “Editor’s pick!” video concerning Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and the thorny subject of fracking in Dimock Pennsylvania. The video was submitted by a board member of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Inc, a group with a distinct point of view on the subject of fracking. The video featured an interview with a person who’s suing Cabot over alleged groundwater contamination. Well, as one would imagine, the “other side” in this contentious issue was none too happy that this video got posted without contextual explanation or journalistic examination of the “facts” in the case. The Northeast Marcellus Initiative submitted an article to NorthCentralPA.com blasting CNN for not vetting the video.
CNN failed miserably here in presenting unbiased information about the situation in Dimock. Did it do so on purpose? The only one who can answer that is CNN. What we know is that CNN made a clarification to this post, and its veracity, and then removed it after we informed them of these, and similar, concerns. We also know the producer has endorsed other Scott Cannon “documentaries”. Finally, the final thirty seconds is nothing more than an advertisement for GDAC.
Two days ago, George E. Start, Director of External Affairs at Cabot sent a letter to CNN protesting the posting of this video without proper examination of its claims.
Because Mr. Cannon chose not to check his facts and because CNN chose to air the report, serious false allegations have been lodged against Cabot in a video viewed approximately 50,000 times. Before the reputation of our company is smeared even further, I request that you remove this video from your website.
In issues as contentious as this where there’s a lot of he said/she said facts being thrown around, it’s imperative for news organizations to, at a minimum, state that the facts of such a video are in dispute. So far, CNN has not done so. There is a “CNN Producer Note” on the video page which states the following…
iReporter ScottCannon, a board member of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Inc., shot this video in Dimock, Pennsylvania, a town at the heart of an EPA water drilling investigation. The video includes an interview with Susan Roos, a resident of Dimock who claims her water supply has been contaminated by gas extraction practices. This video package also includes an interview with EPA spokesperson Trish Taylor, who is part of a team investigating claims in the area.
You can read more about the ‘fracking’ situation in Dimock in an earlier piece on CNN.com. – elchueco, CNN iReport producer
Nowhere in this note does it state that the claims in this video are contested, nor does it state the agenda of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition or examine the claims made in this video. There is a glaring lack of disclosure and context regarding this video.
I don’t have enough information to form an reality based opinion on the subject of fracking and I really don’t care as far as this blog is concerned. I am concerned that CNN appears to have cut some corners it shouldn’t have cut when tackling an iReport submission concerning an issue as contentious as this one is. CNN owes an explanation for why this video was posted, apparently factually un-verified, and why it continues to remain live without putting the video in the necessary context of this being one side in a hard fought PR war over an issue where the science is apparently not completely known yet.