What you don’t see can hurt you
James Tankard, one of journalism’s key scholars, talks about news reporting as a “magician’s sleight of hand.”
Tankard means that we muggles pay attention to the rabbit and the high-top hat, while oblivious to the gloved hand we cannot see.
Like Tankard, I study how news framing can obscure the core issues of a topic—let’s take the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests as an example—by replacing them with hype and rhetoric.
The hype looks like, feels like and reads like click-bait.
And by click-bait I mean the most tantalizing bits of a story that hardly skim the surface.
In the case of DAPL, attention is drawn to the brutes blasting water, rubber bullets, stun grenades and attack dogs on unarmed protestors.
Researchers who study news coverage of the pipeline say attention peaked in November 2016 when powerful fire-hoses soaked water protectors in freezing weather for six hours, injuring 300 and hospitalizing 26.
Reporters focus their lenses on the cruel treatment of folks defending their health and civil rights but fail to look beyond the immediate drama to expose the rotten core.
Despite the protests, the pipeline—which runs through four U.S. states—was completed with little fanfare after the incoming administration took the reins in 2018 and shredded President Barack Obama’s official decree that would halt the construction.
Today the pipeline flows at the rate of 570,000 barrels each day, with a market price of $59.58 per gallon: that’s just short of $40 million per day.
Imagine trying to thwart a venture that rakes in $40 million each day.