Arkansas Business reporter Kyle Massey stopped reporting the news and inserted himself into the story yesterday in NPR affiliate KUAR's "story" about the Plains & Eastern Clean Line. Massey not only repeated his own story, but also made statements representing the positions of elected officials and mysterious "landowners" he never interviewed for his own story. Must have been a pretty lazy day at KUAR, when reporter Michael Hibblen chose to let a reporter from another publication make statements on behalf of other people, instead of interviewing those people himself. Ethics in journalism is dead at NPR.
Hibblen: "So, I take it the property owners don't want to sell?"
Massey: "Well, some of them don't want to sell. And others sort of resent being forced to sell even though they may get a good price for the use of their land."
Massey: "Well, the delegation would say the difference is that this is the benefit of private company that is Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston and it's a little different from an interstate in that Clean Line has not been declared a utility by the PSC so the Congressional delegation is framing this as an unprecedented partnership between the Department of Energy, which is backing this project, and a private company."
Hibblen: "What would be the benefits of this project?"
Massey: "Well there would be a few jobs in maintaining the line, but the main benefits would be to the landowners."
Is Massey saying that the only reason Clean Line is proposing this project is to shower Arkansas landowners with monetary "benefits?" That's ridiculous! Clean Line is attempting to build this project first and foremost for its own profit. It wants to take land from Arkansans for a one-time pittance and then use that land to make money for its corporate investors in perpetuity.
Massey also takes a position on another monetary "benefit" for Arkansans:
"But the big number is the $147M in taxes that would flow to the 12 counties that the line crosses."
Massey claims "there would be cheap energy." But he provides no facts to back up this presumption. Does he have any firm quotes from wind energy suppliers? Does he have any firm quotes on the cost of transmission for this energy? No, he doesn't.
Massey claims there would be "lasting jobs" in Arkansas to supply the project. Lasting how long? Once the line is supplied, the jobs to manufacture parts go away. Hurtado claims his project would take three years to build. Therefore the jobs would be temporary, not "lasting."
Hibblen: "Are the landowners and Clean Line talking possible settlements?"
Massey: "Clean Line is negotiating with individual landowners and they have commitments with a great many of them as I understand it."
In addition, individual landowner "settlements" does not dispose of the legal issues regarding the U.S. Department of Energy's flawed interpretation of federal law to allow it to condemn property for this transmission line. The lawsuit filed in federal court must be answered and adjudicated.
Massey shares that only "holdouts" are fighting it. How many "holdouts" did Massey interview? I would guess none. How did Massey make his determination that the landowners who have not committed are "holdouts?"
Then he goes into advising landowners who are "holding out" that they are not "selling their land, they are only selling the easement." I'm sorry, but Massey is not an attorney and has no business expounding on the legal ramifications of selling easements. Landowners should consult a qualified attorney before selling anything.
Massey finishes up by stating that having an infrastructure project cross your land "can be emotional." And he informs Hibblen that these landowners "can feel resentment toward being forced to give up any land that they don't want to relinquish."
That sounds rather dismissive. Instead of addressing the very real and factual arguments of opposing landowners, Massey dismisses them as "emotional" and therefore not capable of rational thought.
Shame on you, Kyle Massey, since you didn't quote one landowner in your story! I don't believe Massey interviewed even one landowner for his "story" upon which to base his thoughts and opinions about landowners. That's unethical, from a journalistic perspective.
"So I think a great many people find this attractive and would be happy to have the money for the line coming through their land.
This whole "report" fairly screams desperation. Clean Line is desperate to politicize this issue and marginalize landowners who are resisting efforts to "settle" with the company. That Clean Line found a sympathetic ear for their public relations scheme at Arkansas Business isn't surprising. However, shame on you, NPR! I'll never believe another one of your stories.