On being ... left wondering

By Ingrid Sapona 

I’m sure you heard the news this week about the rupture of Russia’s natural gas pipelines (Nord Stream 1 and 2) in the Baltic Sea. The rupture seems to have been discovered by Denmark who first noticed a patch of bubbles caused by gas welling up in the water near the island of Bornholm. The flow of Russian oil and gas to Europe has been a focus of western news for a long time, as Germany and other countries relied on it for their energy. Since February, of course, the pipelines (not to mention Ukrainian nuclear power facilities) have become especially newsworthy as Putin has used them as tools of war. 

With those facts as the backdrop, it isn’t surprising that the cause of the pipeline rupture would garner a lot of attention. Clearly the issue of whether it was a deliberate act of sabotage, and if so, by whom, will have political consequences in ways I’m sure many of us can’t begin to imagine. So, in a news story on the front page of the Thursday New York Times – three days after the discovery – the headline was: Burst Pipelines Seen as Attack, But the Mystery is Who Did It.  

But the ecological consequences of the leaking gas has garnered barely a mention. I did see one New York Times article on Wednesday by Stanley Reed, a London-based writer energy writer, that mentioned the environmental impact. About half way through the 39-paragraph article (yes, I counted) there was this cryptic (not to mention concerning) sub-heading: The environmental impact appears alarming. Finally, I thought, someone is covering the issue. 

But the measly five paragraphs under that sub-heading only talked about the fact that natural gas consists of methane, which is a significant contributor to global warming. (According to the article, estimates are that the gas leaking could amount to about 1/3 of Denmark’s annual emissions, so not an insignificant amount.) But, it was the last of the five sentences under that gob-smacking subheading that I think is deserving of further reporting: “Scientists hope that the gas, which is rushing to the surface and dispersing into the atmosphere, will not have a major [italics are mine] impact on animal and plant life in the waters around the leak.” Clearly we all HOPE that, but how about some details – or follow-up – as to the basis for this hope? 

Lately I’ve been frustrated about some news stories that are talked about from really just one angle. The Russian pipeline is an example, but another one was a story related to the tragedy in Uvalde. The story I’m talking about was the one about the school police chief (Pete Arredondo) being fired. When I first heard the news, I didn’t quite understand how the school district could fire the chief of police. In my experience, school boards typically don’t have that much political clout. 

It was only after reading a few reports that I realized Arredondo was not the chief of the Uvalde Police Department – he was the chief of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police force. Confused, I ended up looking up the school district. It serves seven communities and has about 4150 students in total, from PK through grade 12, in a county of about 25,000 residents. 

I had never heard of a school district having its own police force. But, apparently, it’s not uncommon in Texas for school districts to have their own actual police forces. Why is it that? Of course, that’s a rhetorical question – it’s because (sadly) America is a violent society. But why is it that the news stories around the Uvalde massacre seemed to only focus on laying blame for the response? Why were there no stories about whether by accepting armed officers in the schools, not to mention having a school district-funded police force that is separate from the local police, society is facilitating the acceptance of violence. 

I know that sometimes reporters simply don’t have details that can help us understand all implications of an event. (Russia activating reservists is a perfect example of a story where I suspect western reporters don’t have solid information about what constitutes a reservist.) But lately I feel that journalists, editors, and consumers of news approach stories with blinders, focusing on the most immediate consequences only. Meanwhile, aspects of a story that will have broader implications later are glossed over or ignored to our (future) peril. 

Am I the only one who feels this way – or are there angles of news events you wish you knew more about? Of course, wishing to know more doesn’t change things that have happened. But, maybe by talking more about various angles of stories and events we’ll be better able to anticipate long-term impacts that we do have time to change. 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona 


Post a Comment

<< Home