Monday, August 23, 2010

UNC-TV director: Where are the news media?

At the height of the tensions in the General Assembly over its demand for copies of videos and research from UNC-TV on Alcoa Power Generating Inc.'s proposed renewal of its license to operate the Yadkin River hydroelectric plants, UNC-TV's Director and General Manager Tom Howe was wondering where other news media were on this story. In an email released after Alcoa asked for copies of the station's e-mails dealing with the Alcoa story, Howe on July 6 wrote several staff members:

"Right -- why hasn't public radio in the state done anything on the story -- why hasn't any of the major newspaper in the state done anything major on the story -- why hasn't any of the major television stations in the state done anything on the story -- why haven't any of the major television news networks done anything on the story -- why hasn't any of the major news magazines done anything on the story -- why hasn't any of the states magazines done anything on the story -- why haven't any of the general assembly reserach staff done anyhing on the story....

"Our NORTH CAROLINA NOW segments will be the most compreenensive coverage of this done by anyone -- seems to me we can stand on that with pride."

Howe raises a good question. Although UNC-TV later took three video segments off its website after concluding that they didn't reflect the station's usual standards, his question is a good one. The Charlotte Observer has opined on this topic in editorials and columns, and reporters from the Observer and The News & Observer have published a number of stories as well. Yet there's still a lot of reporting to be done on the environmental impacts and health consequences in this story, and Howe's frustration over being criticized by others in the press is understandable. UNC-TV worked on the story for a long time and wound up getting burned in various quarters for succumbing to the legislature's demands and for waiving its usual editorial control.

For more on this, see my Sunday column here.


Jack Betts said...

Greg Collard at public radio station WFAE in Charlotte points out his organization has indeed tackled the Aloca story:

Mr. Betts:

I enjoy your column and blog.

I felt obligated to send you the following link after reading your latest blog entry about Mr. Howe lamenting that other media, particularly public radio, haven’t done many stories on the Yadkin River controversy. That certainly is not the case at WFAE. I’m proud to say we’ve followed it extensively, and even had a series in the spring of 2009 called Public vs. Private: Power struggle on the Yadkin.

Greg Collard
News Director
WFAE 90.7 FM
Your NPR News Source
Charlotte, NC

Jennifer Lang said...

That coverage can be found here:

Jack Betts said...

Yep -- meant to include that in 3:44 p.m. post.

Jennifer Lang said...

Thank you!

Yadkin LakeLover said...

The Salisbury Post has covered the Alcoa relicensing process since it began in 2002. So has the Lexington Dispatch and the Stanly News and Press. Tom Howe should get out of Raleigh more. :)

Yadkin LakeLover said...

Glad you'll allow comments on your blog, as does Carter Wrenn. Richard Morgan's website deletes all comments answering the question "why doesn't Alcoa dispute the accusations of contamination?" The Yadkin Riverkeeper is sending out emails saying UNC-TV has threatened to sue anyone who shows the UNC-TV video, then includes a link to a story that doesn't say that at all. He does things like that. Eszter Vajda's cohorts are striking back today!

Anonymous said...

Oh, please, Jack. Bowles should have fired Howe and given Vadja a raise.