Mar 29

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AP article misses the big picture

With gas prices jumping 11 cents in the past two weeks to reach a national average of $3.93 a gallon, Americans are demanding a solution from presidential candidates. President Barack Obama, as part of his four-state energy tour, addressed concerned citizens in Cushing, Okla. — “The Pipeline Crossroads of the World.” The Associated Press reported on the president’s speech Friday, emphasizing the age-old partisan conflict:

“President Barack Obama firmly defended his record on oil drilling Thursday, ordering the government to fast-track an Oklahoma pipeline while accusing Congress of playing politics with a larger Canada-to-Gulf Coast project.”

The remarkable element that would have made AP reporter Ken Thomas’ story more intriguing is Obama’s order to hasten the pipeline process. With or without the president’s involvement, the pipeline project from Cushing to the Gulf will proceed as planned.

Thomas is avoiding the meatier story. He “buried the lede” so deep, that what should have been the lede didn’t even make it in the article. The wire service’s article soon surfaced on The Washington Post, ABC News and Yahoo! News with the headline “Obama defends handling of Keystone as he puts another oil pipeline on the fast track.” Thomas’ headline alone is flawed on two accounts. The first of these are in regards to the statement that Obama is “fast-tracking” the southern portion of the Keystone Pipeline.

The AP article is misleading in that it makes it sound as though Obama’s approval has allowed for the southern leg to be worked on. A Bloomberg article by Bradley Olson and Mike Lee points out that the second piece of the pipeline is something Obama has no jurisdiction over. Rather, the buck stops with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“TransCanada is awaiting permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the last it needs to begin construction on the pipeline segment that will carry crude from the oil-storage hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, to Gulf Coast refineries, Terry Cunha, a spokesman for the Calgary-based company, said in an e-mail message yesterday.”

Secondly, Thomas’ headline suggests that Obama put “another oil pipeline on the fast track.” 

Rush Limbaugh, whose highest-rated American talk radio show recruits 15+ million weekly listeners, had a field day with this concept.

“Another! Another? When was the first one?  He opposes Keystone! And what he did today — we told you yesterday this is coming — is already happening. It was already in place. He’s not even authorizing anything that wasn’t happening.”

Although The Associated Press is regarded as one of the globe’s “most trusted sources of independent newsgathering,” Limbaugh challenged AP’s integrity. He joked, or maybe he wasn’t joking, that “Obama’s campaign staff at the Associated Press never sleep.” (Click here for the transcription of that radio segment.)

On January 18, Obama denied the application for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline Northern segment of the pipeline that stretches from Cushing, Okla. into Canada. TransCanada decided to continue the portion of the pipeline project that spans from Cushing to the Gulf. (This phase does not require permission from the U.S. Department of State or the president since it doesn’t cross an international border.)

A Fox News report features an outraged Republican voice — something the AP article needed to balance the story.

“President Obama claiming credit for speeding up the Keystone pipeline is like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet,” said Rep. John Sullivan, a Republican from Oklahoma, the start of the pipeline’s southern section that will stretch to the Gulf of Mexico. “It is claiming credit where credit isn’t due.”

The AP headline is misleading because Obama did not put any “oil pipeline on the fast track” to begin with. Any direct reference to Obama’s powerlessness to accelerate the process would refute Thomas’ story angle. However, he does make a vague reference to the real story within:

“Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, said the company welcomed Obama’s support for the Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the pipeline but couldn’t say whether his involvement would impact the timeline for completing the project.”

On websites such as Time and Yahoo! News, the last half of Thomas’ original headline has been chopped off. It now reads “Obama defends handling of Keystone.”

Permanent link to this article: http://thewashingtonjournalismcenter.com/?p=4060

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