It’s no secret that the newspaper business is struggling mightily. Here’s the impact: Smaller staffs means that The News & Observer and others now rely on stories they didn’t write more and more frequently. It pays for some stories, like those by the Associated Press, while others are free.
We tell you this because The News & Observer just published a story about hog farmers that was written by ProPublica.
Who is ProPublica?
It’s a nonprofit news group that receives funding from, among other sources, foundations that also support groups opposed to animal agriculture. ProPublica writes the stories, then provides them to newspapers looking for stories to publish.
The negative slant of ProPublica’s story about hog farmers is no surprise. It read like a compilation of all the unkind stories written by partisan groups like the Waterkeepers Alliance. And it featured familiar characters, like Elsie Herring, repeating a familiar litany of complaints: She can’t go outside. She can’t open her windows. She’s a prisoner in her own home. All because she lives near a hog farm.
But at the top of the same story in The News and Observer there was a picture of the ‘woman who can’t go outside’ — standing outside in front of her home.
Herring once claimed the hog farmer next to her home sprayed his field “three or four days on a slow week” and sometimes “daily” and sometimes “at night.” (She’s also claimed that he sprays eight feet from her front door, which clearly isn’t true.)
Every time a farmer applies effluent, the law requires him to keep a record for state inspectors.
So, what do the records show? That he uses that field very infrequently. Records from 2017 show that the farmer only used the field near Herring’s home twice — and he continues to use the field only on rare occasions.
ProPublica didn’t tell you that.ProPublica wrote about the pork industry’s supposed “political clout,” reporting that farmers and farm groups have contributed more than $16 million to politicians over the past 18 years. But it didn’t mention the political influence of those opposed to hog farming. Trial lawyers, in particular,are politically well connected, both individually and through their powerful political action committee.
You find the same type of slanted reporting throughout the story.
ProPublica reported that 33 lagoons “overflowed” during Hurricane Florence. But it failed to mention that the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality correctly characterized the overflow as “diluted storm water” in a public meeting last week. The fact is that more than 98% of the state’s 3,300 lagoons came through the hurricane just fine.
ProPublica wrote about the nuisance lawsuits against Smithfield Foods. But it didn’t mention the lawsuits were started by predatory out-of-state lawyers who promised big paydays for those who signed up. The attorneys were thrown off the case for their unethical behavior in recruiting clients.
And ProPublica wrote how in a state “where Confederate Monuments still stand,” agriculture has its roots “in the plantation system and slavery.”
Is that unbiased investigative journalism? It sure sounds a lot like the work of someone with an activist agenda.
ProPublica’s cheap shots went on and on. And The News and Observer published every single one of them.