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Published on December 31st, 2017 | by Zachary Shahan


Reality Check — Correcting The Cleantech Record

December 31st, 2017 by  

We love journalism. We need journalism. We need local journalism, high-access national journalism that puts a check on the power elite, and deeply investigative journalism that goes where few would dream to go. If people truly respected one of the great thinkers behind the forming of the United States, they would respect that the work of journalists is valuable — critical — to a democratic society. Thomas Jefferson said:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Let’s not underestimate the importance of a well trained, highly professional, well funded mainstream media sector. However, let’s also recognize that what’s important here isn’t just to have newspapers (or news websites). What’s critical is that the information these newspapers share is correct, useful, and not misleading. Our major media needs to get it right.

Reputable, mainstream media agencies are extremely stretched. Budgets are tight, revenue models have shifted, and everyone is competing with more free content than ever before, which makes it harder for them to make money on their professional work. There is a gigantic, constant stream of information flowing through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, reddit, blogs, newspapers, and innumerable sources that is all vying for your attention. This puts extra pressure on news agencies to not only produce good content but also to work hard promoting it. In the end, that can limit how much time reporters and media companies have to research a topic, talk to experts, and get the story straight. Independent reporters have also been asked to cover more and more beats, expanding into topics they don’t know as well and may not be equipped to adequately cover.

The result: Too often there are informational errors and errors of logic in mainstream media coverage of the niche topic we focus on here on CleanTechnica — cleantech.

Building further off of the topics in this article and in Nicolas Zart’s last article, “A Cautionary Tale About Mainstream News Media,” we are launching a new feature here on CleanTechnica in partnership with Renew American Prosperity (which is kindly sponsoring this feature to make sure we have resources to do a thorough and considerate job). Titled “Reality Check — Correcting the Cleantech Record,” we are planning to address misleading reporting that stems from:

◊ Factual errors

◊ Imbalance

◊ Errors of omission

◊ False equivalency

◊ Unfair framing

◊ Lopsided story focus

One goal of this new feature is to help mainstream media reporters better understand cleantech industries (renewable energy, electric vehicles, and energy storage) so that they can more accurately frame and communicate news about these industries. In terms of the content of clean energy and electric vehicle coverage, we routinely see the following mistakes:

◊ Coverage of renewable energy and electric vehicle policy support that doesn’t respect their place in the context of the massive, decades-old system of subsidies, tax breaks, and giveaways to highly mature fossil fuel energy sources.

◊ A lack of understanding of the economic and job-creation benefits of cleantech leadership.

◊ A lack of understanding about why cleantech sectors are growing quickly and are critical to the long-term competitiveness of countries and states in the continuously evolving global economy.

◊ Viewing and framing cleantech as a “climate change” or “environmental” story instead of the growing, dynamic set of business sectors firmly embedded in the 21st century economy.

◊ Inaccurately claiming that business execution problems (and perhaps failures) are nefarious scandals, seemingly just to stimulate clicks, outrage, and revenue.

Intentional or not, these shortcomings in coverage misinform the public’s view of clean economy sectors, companies, and people.

Across the country – in rural areas and America’s biggest cities – clean economy companies are creating jobs and injecting new life into the American economy. They are providing affordable, reliable, and modern energy and infrastructure solutions. Everyone should know that.

Every day, more than 4 million Americans go to work in the clean economy. Jobs in this sector have been growing 12 times faster than any other industry in the U.S. Everyone should know that.

We are launching this feature to better journalism by holding outlets, reporters, and editors accountable for individual instances of sloppy or imbalanced reporting, false equivalency, and slanted framing. We don’t see anyone adequately doing that right now, and it needs to be done. To be successful, we need your help. Alert us to stories you see that are problematic so we can take a careful look.


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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species). He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. He's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

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