Saturday, January 30, 2010

Canwest resorts to publishing unrefined propaganda

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Canadian newspapers now at the beck and call of the oil industry. (and, presumably, any industry or corporation with the bucks to pay)

Today's print edition of the Montreal Gazette contains a full-page feature on Page A20 sub-titled in small type:
"A six-week Canwest special information feature on climate change, in partnership with Shell Canada."

Mired in red ink and hopelessly unable to adapt effectively to a changing information landscape, Canwest has sold out to corporate influence. The page in the print version of the Gazette doesn't even come with a normal lame disclaimer such as "advertising feature".

By way of contrast, there is another full-page adver-news feature on Page A23, placed by the McGill University Health Centre, which does include the disclaimer "Advertisement" in tiny type at the top of the page, as is customary. This does not appear on the Shell page.

Even though the page does not contain a disclaimer and is presented as genuine news, the Shell page includes blatant promotional content, unfiltered by any pretense of journalism, such as:

"Shell innovation unlocks oil sands"

"Q: Some groups call the oil sands dirty oil.
A: I don't understand where that comes from..."

"Q: You're also inspired about oil sands work. what motivates you?
A: When we get done, there's not going to be any sign that we were there at all"

Shell's Calgary Research Centre (CRC) employs more than 200 scientists, ..."

"The trademark Shell Enhance froth treatment is the first commercial application of an innovative technology..."

"By saving energy, the company will prevent the release of about 40,000 tonnes per year of GHG emissions as well as air pollutants."

Today's article is centred around Shell chemist Brad Komishke, "whose blue-grey eyes take on intensity when he talks about Alberta's oil sands and using science to protect the environment."

He says: "That's why I am at Shell. I feel I can make a difference."

The online version seems to be different. Either that or they are presenting the information in a different sequence.

The headline on the apparent lead article in the online version reads: "Climate change: a reality check."

Unlike the shadowy petro-industry funded think-tanks, (so-called) institutes and PR agencies which spend millions to foment doubt and confusion in the climate change discussion, Shell's overt corporate line is as green as you please:

"The debate about climate change is over and we need to take action," says Ertel, Shell Canada's climate change expert.

Unfortunately, Shell's strategy for dealing with climate change is more about cap and trade, and carbon capture and storage, neither of which is a primary solution in the GHG emission equation.

I don't really put this on Shell. I might question their sincerity or their operational processes (like how about just beginning to replace natural gas with green power sources in the tar sands?). But Shell is behaving with both eyes on the bottom line, like any corporation would.

This is on Canwest. It is a sell-out of the worst kind. It is the sell-out of a profession which operates with the understanding of public trust. It's as if you could instantly become a doctor and operate on patients by paying a given fee.

Canwest owns 13 daily newspapers and 26 community newspapers.

I don't know to what extent this series is running in all of them.


* The National Post
• The Gazette (Montreal)
• Ottawa Citizen
• The Windsor Star
• Leader-Post (Regina)
• The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)
• Edmonton Journal
• Calgary Herald
• The Province (Vancouver)
• The Vancouver Sun
• Times Colonist (Victoria)
• Nanaimo Daily News
• Alberni Valley Times

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