Airport and Media- (straw)MEN behaving defensively

Dear David,

thank you for your comment on the MCFly story “Men behaving inanely“, which followed on from our “Green Christmas, White Elephants and Unintentional larfs.”

You write:

We’ve put the airport’s ‘green’ credentials under scrutiny many times in the past, and will do so again in the future. See e.g.

http://menmedia.co.uk/manchestereveningnews/news/transport/s/1302462_airport_goes_green_as_long_as_you_dont_include_the_flights

That doesn’t mean EVERY story about the airport has to be about its carbon emissions – and this latest one wasn’t. It’s hardly a sign of a conspiracy of silence – just that we aren’t a single-issue newspaper.

The Manchester Evening News published hundreds of articles a year about the Airport, many of which seem to come straight from press releases. A search for “Manchester Airport” on your newspaper’s website reveals 4195 hits.

A search for “Manchester Airport” “climate change” reveals 28. It’s kind of like running thousands of stories on the tobacco industry and a hundredth of that number on lung cancer and emphysema.

You point to a story published in July – the most recent – which seems to have been put together by getting an Airport press release, phoning Friends of the Earth for a react quote, and then splicing the two together. Previous stories were based on a couple of protests by a campaigning group. Before that is a piece on plans to demolish a couple of houses. A favourite, from June 2009, is a hard-hitting investigation entitled “Concorde Centre to open an eaterie”

So, please point me to the “many” articles which explain who owns the airport, what the plans for expansion of the airport are, whether these plans are compatible with the stated objectives of its owners, Manchester City Council etc,  around climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.

We don’t expect Manchester Evening News to be a “single-issue newspaper”. You have constructed a classic strawman argument there, which is a bit of a surprise to me – I expected better of you. What we do expect – but never get – is for local media to hold the powerful to account, and ask searching questions of their plans and the implications of those plans for all of us, but especially for the young who will suffer the brunt of their parents’ selfishness and stupidity and cowardice. This, it appears, is too much to ask.

If all this seems too high falutin’ , then let’s take it back to the two stories I blogged about. Both were obviously puff pieces put out by the Council and the Airport. What place do they have in a newspaper? How do they meet the definition that “news is something that someone somewhere doesn’t want you to know”? Or do you have a different definition of news?

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About dwighttowers

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This entry was posted in A Certain Future, Airport, aviation, Manchester Airport, Manchester City Council, Manchester Climate Change Action Plan, Manchester Evening News. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Airport and Media- (straw)MEN behaving defensively

  1. Patrick Sudlow says:

    Hi Marc, you are correct in that they only seem to print press releases. They have done the same thing with the MMU’s plans for Birley Fields. They want to build in a the last remaining sizeable semi-wild green space in the Central ward. The Central ward by the councils own admission deficient of green space. There alternative sites for the campus such as the empty car parks on Gaythorns opposite the John Dalton campus and student accommodation. Whilst Birley Fields could be used to provide allotments (something that is also in short supply) and even as part of the councils locally grown food program. How does the council expect to reach their stated aims if it concrete over everything?

  2. David Ottewell says:

    Eh? The airport publishes a document about carbon targets, we read through it, notice it doesn’t include air travel, then phone environmental groups for comment… It’s hardly ‘splicing together’ a press release with anything at all. In fact it’s exactly the kind of thing you seem to suggest we don’t do.

    I’m not going to trawl through our archive. Suffice to say – from my own time reporting – I mentioned the airport’s ownership in every story where it was relevant. Indeed, during the congestion charge debate, there was an entire string of stories, written by me, about whether the airport would (or should) be sold. They were stories not merely mentioning the airport’s ownership, but ABOUT the airport’s ownership. (And based not on press releases but on-and-off-the-record discussions with various senior figures.)

    As for your ‘strawman’ suggestion – I wasn’t actually constructing an argument at all, merely responding to a suggestion that we wouldn’t run critical stories about the airport because of advertising. It was a suggestion as wrong, and frankly simple-minded, as the suggestion that our pages are filled with regurgitated press releases, or that we ignore issues like climate change.

    I don’t mind getting involved in a serious debate about whether we look at the issue of climate change enough, or whether we should revisit the airport’s carbon emissions more often than we do. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s on offer here, so I’m out.

  3. dwighttowers says:

    Dear David,

    You write “I’m not going to trawl through our archive.” Well, how else do you propose to assess Manchester Evening News’ record? What metric would you care to use instead? When presented with the facts of the infrequency with which “Manchester Airport” and “climate change” appear in your paper’s archives (which only took a few seconds to come up with – wonders of the internet and all) you don’t engage. Instead you say that your recollection of your time reporting should ‘suffice’. No, it doesn’t.

    You mention the “congestion charge”. That was in 2008. What has the MEN published since then looking at the Climate Change Action Plan (aka “Manchester: A Certain Future”) generally and the Plan and the Airport more specifically? Very very little. The two front page stories that (to my knowledge) the MEN has ever run on climate change were a piece on Firefighters going on a ‘junket’ to Greece and a piece on how individual wind turbines on houses wouldn’t give enough energy to boil a kettle.

    You claim the MEN’s pages aren’t “filled with regurgitated press releases,” but did not account for the presence of the two ‘stories’ on page 16 of last Saturday’s edition that I originally blogged about. Are you saying they weren’t from press releases?

    You are angry/upset with the claim that the MEN “ignore[s] issues like climate change” but don’t take the opportunity/challenge to “point to the ‘many’ [your words] articles which explain who owns the airport, what the plans for expansion of the airport are, whether these plans are compatible with the stated objectives of its owners, Manchester City Council etc, around climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.”

    And yet you have the brass neck to write “I don’t mind getting involved in a serious debate about whether we look at the issue of climate change enough, or whether we should revisit the airport’s carbon emissions more often than we do. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s on offer here, so I’m out.”

    The very uselessness of the Manchester Evening News’ coverage of climate change was one of the major prompt’s to start Manchester Climate Fortnightly. Sadly, nothing I have seen in the last two years has made MCFly less (self-) important.
    What would this “serious” debate that you are happy to engage in actually look like? Is it one where participants must take your claims of “many” articles at face value, without, you know, digging beyond mere assertion? Would this “serious debate” be one where we all agreed in advance that the MEN was already rigorously investigating and reporting the key issue of the 21st century? If that’s the “serious” debate you expect, then yes, well, I’m “out” as well.

    I, and many others, are making the “pity purchase” less frequently. Which is a pity, but hardly surprising.

  4. Pingback: Manchester Evening News on Climate Change |

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