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Monday, January 19, 2009

Central Coast Weekly Blasts Chron's Environmental Coverage

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 11:43 AM

click to enlarge moss_thumb_400x304.jpg

While the San Francisco Chronicle is busy fêting itself with daily retrospectives, journalists beyond the walls of 901 Mission are sounding a less complimentary note. In an editorial published last week, the weekly Carmel Pine Cone takes the Chron to task for its reporting on environmental questions looming over the Central Coast's Moss Landing power plant (pictured), stating that Chron environmental writer Jane Kay "is trying her best to get into the Hall of Fame for Bad Reporting."

At issue is Kay's Jan. 14 story outlining the possibility of tighter regulations on coastal power plants' cooling systems under the Obama administration. Kay describes the apparatus currently used at the plants -- which draws cold water from the ocean before discharging it back at a warmer temperature -- as one "that sucks and grinds fish, flattens them on screens or boils them in hot water." So we're supposed to get the impression that these cooling systems are bad, right?

The Pine Cone has two bones to pick with Kay. The paper points out that the scalding water referenced in her story is, in fact, only 70 degrees Fahrenheit when discharged. (Let's be honest: "Tepid" doesn't make great news copy.) The editors also dispute Kay's assertion that the Moss Landing plant discharges warm water into the environmentally sensitive Elkhorn Slough. According to the Pine Cone, the water goes back into enormous Monterey Bay, where it is quickly cooled and dispersed. Kay did not respond to an e-mail and phone call requesting comment.

We're not necessarily inclined to view the Pine Cone as the final authority on issues in its coverage area. But the weekly has been right before. A few years ago, the Pine Cone slammed the daily Monterey County Herald -- correctly -- for grossly misrepresenting the scope of plans for development in Del Monte Forest. "Next time the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle send a reporter to Monterey County to cover an important local story, we urge them to provide some background from experienced local journalists," the editorial concludes. "But they probably won't want to, because when you've already made up your mind about what a story's supposed to be, the facts can just get in the way."

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Peter Jamison

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