The Keystone Pipeline

On July 16, 2008, the Lincoln Star Online broke the news to their readers about the proposal. They released a map of where TransCanada, the company in charge of the Keystone pipeline, planned to expand the pipeline and then followed up with a separate article, which spelled out the proposal and where it would be built (Lincoln Star Online 2008). This article, titled “TransCanada intends expansion of Keystone pipeline,” showed no negative bias in its reporting. It was meant to serve as a breaking news article and just explaining the situation to its readers.

In the latest breaking news published November 6, 2015, titled “Obama rejects Keystone XL,” journalist Nicholas Bergin wrote about President Obama’s rejection of the pipeline and included a personal aspect in the story. The article began with a narrative lead including two landowners, Susan and Bill Dunavan, who were fighting against the expansion (Bergin 2015). The article has an obvious positive slant throughout, as it includes statements from Obama’s report as well as landowners possibly affected praising his decision. It was not until later in the article that Bergin revealed that most people in Nebraska were actually supporting the pipeline and included quotes from Governor Pete Rickettes, TransCanada CEO Russ Gerling and residents who were all supporting the pipeline.

Opinion pieces, written by the public as “Local Views” or by the newspaper staff as editorials, however, were not so balanced and tended to focus on the negative rather than the positive. Out of the first 10 opinion pieces written for the Lincoln Star Journal, nine had headlines that focused on the negatives of the pipeline situation such as “TransCanada should back off” (Lincoln Star Online 2010). These controversial headlines on the editorials show an obvious sway and, without even reading past the headline, the reader knows how the writer stands.

The newspaper based in Helena, Montana, the Independent Record, broke the news to their readers about the Keystone pipeline on July 17, 2008, one day after the Lincoln Star Journal did. The two articles were written in the same fashion and focused on the same news with little bias. One difference between them was the obvious focus on readership. The Lincoln Star Journal focused their information on Nebraska residents and the Independent Record focused theirs on those in Montana. The Independent Record’s article, titled “Partnership doubles capacity of crude pipeline” and written by Mike Dennison, did some reporting that the Nebraskan article did not (Dennison 2008). In addition to using TransCanada as a source, Dennison also used former Governor Brian Schweitzer as a source, connecting it even more to the local people.

When the news broke about Obama vetoing the proposal, the Independent Record showed an obvious slant in the article, including the headline. The story, written by Tom Lutey on November 6, 2015 and titled “Montana delegation disappointed, outraged by Keystone Pipeline rejection,” began with a negative headline that could have convinced readers that Obama had made the wrong choice without even reading the article (Lutey 2015). The article continued to be one-sided with three sources that all disagreed with Obama’s decision to veto the proposal. None of the sources included the general public, only state and local government officials.

These two newspapers’ coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline showed different ways that national news could be covered with a local perspective. Although the Atlantic Sunrise and PennEast pipelines have not been in the national spotlight as much as the Keystone pipeline was, they are both being covered by media sources in their local areas.