There’s no easy way to cover issues that are controversial. In most local TV news coverage, the writers, photographers and producers do their best creating a balance with a shared point of view on a topic. If a station fails to cover some angle, it is arguable that the story is biased.
More often than not, as I can tell with experience, on a local level bias usually happens when a news crew doesn’t go the extra steps to create balance.
Unfortunately, most of our national news outlets have a pre-determined slant … even when they pretend they don’t. To find good in-depth coverage on topics, we as viewers have to sometimes search out other sources of information. I believe that is why many turn to BBC coverage of America because the outside perspective will usually create a non-slanted view at something.
Al Jazeera’s Emmy Award-winning "Fault Lines" presents "Death on the Bakken Shale" at 8 p.m. on Monday night. The show will look at the practice of fracking, which is being considered in parts of the country, including Wisconsin.
Produced by Josh Rushing and his team, the show will provide in-depth investigation into why the oil boom in North Dakota has brought with it the highest worker fatality rates in the country.
Rushing spent six months investigating safety risks in North Dakota’s oil fields, where advances in fracking crude oil in the Bakken shale formation have help make the U.S. the world’s largest oil and gas producer. North Dakota is now producing more than a million barrels of oil a day, from more than 8,000 oil-producing wells.
Rushing travels to Hazel Green, Ala., to meet the family of Dustin Payne, a Marine Corps veteran who took a job in North Dakota as a welder. While 28-year-old Payne was working for a subsidiary of Nabors Industries, an S&P 500 oil, natural gas and geothermal drilling contractor, he sent a series of text messages to his girlfriend commenting on safety conditions at the worksite.
"I’m literally going to be welding something that’s full of oil … Don’t [feel] comfortable welding this at all. Dangerous as [expletive]," Payne wrote.
On Oct. 3, Payne was welding on a tanker in the Nabors yard when it exploded. After his death, Payne’s family learned that he had been asked to weld on a tanker containing salt water, a byproduct of the fracking process which can contain hydrocarbons, gases and other explosive chemicals.
"What happened to Dustin unfortunately was very avoidable," said Ross Rolshoven, investigator for Great Plains Claims. "The truck should have been put outside for 24 hours and checked for flammable gas."
But Payne is just one of more than 40 oil workers who have died on the job in the Bakken since 2011. "Fault Lines" speaks with Eric Brooks, the Area Director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to learn more about how the government regulates the oil field industry.
While this report focuses on the deaths related to working directly on the practice of fracking, it avoids making a decision on whether the practice of it is right or wrong. The only slant here, it seems, that the working conditions could be safer.
Take advantage of the news sources that cover a topic in a fair way, without having a station-paid personality share their opinions to go along with it. Or, at least, that when bias is there, take the reporting for what it is.
SOMETHING IN THE OVEN: The fourth season of the teaching program, "Martha Bakes," will premiere on PBS stations starting Saturday. WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., leads the production with Martha Stewart, while Domino Foods, Inc., featuring Domino Sugar and C&H Sugar, will sponsor the program.
"Martha Bakes" has become one of the top 10 shows on public television since it started in April 2013. Average weekly audiences increased by 33 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to PBS. The series has been viewed in 95 percent of U.S. television households, according to TRAC Media Services.
In each 30-minute episode of "Martha Bakes," Stewart shares her best baking tips and techniques, teaching viewers to create baked goods from scratch in their own kitchens.
"I’m thrilled with the success of Martha Bakes and that it is back for a fourth season," Stewart said in a statement. "It’s great to see such enthusiastic audiences who continue to love home baking."
SOMETHING TO DO: Quizmaster Trivia will be all about the 1990s at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday night this month at ONLY a Whiskey Bar at 788 N. Jackson St.
What I like about events such as this are all the TV references that go along with other parts of the decade. Topics of the questions will range from "Friends" to video games, fashion and boy bands. Tickets for the event is $1 per player.
Media is bombarding us everywhere.
Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.
The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.