The EPA issued a draft rule on Nov. 26 to limit ozone pollution.
This is the headline on a story in Politico:
The Obama administration proposed a draft air pollution rule on Wednesday that business groups charge could be the costliest regulation of all time — setting up a test of how hard the president will fight for his environmental agenda against a newly strengthened GOP.
David Roberts, who covers energy and politics for Grist, noted two obvious points about this lede. “Right off the bat, here are the two narrative frames through which Washington understands air regulations: first, their alleged high cost, and second, as a move to the left, which everyone in D.C. knows is perilous almost by definition.”
Roberts proposes this alternate lede:
The Obama administration will issue a draft air pollution rule on Wednesday that health scientists say could prevent thousands of premature deaths a year — though Congressional Republicans are fighting hard to block the rule on behalf of industry groups.
What’s interesting about these ledes is that while they differ dramatically, they are both accurate. Nobody is distorting the facts. It’s a question of which facts a reporter might select that makes the difference.
Roberts does a nice job of exposing the unstated biases in the Politico story. He calls out Politico for writing that “greens say industry groups have been doomsaying environmental regulations for more than 40 years…” Of course “greens” say that, Roberts writes, because it’s true, “an actual, observable state of affairs in the world.” And he backs that up with five links.
It’s a very nice takedown, and one that should make reporters at Politico, and elsewhere, think more deeply about what it means to write a balanced story. Getting the facts right is only the beginning.