The PennEast Pipeline

The PennEast pipeline, which is proposed to run from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Mercer County, New Jersey, has also been gaining some local coverage in the Lehigh Valley and other affected areas. One Allentown-based newspaper, The Morning Call, reported on the newly proposed pipeline expansion on August 13, 2014, with an article titled “Marcellus Shale boom to hit Lehigh Valley: Proposed pipeline would cut through Northampton County,” which was written by Scott Kraus and Laura Olson (Kraus & Olson 2014). As opposed to the other newspapers discussed, The Morning Call had the same journalist, Scott Kraus, report on the pipeline story until he passed it along to the journalist now covering it, Christina Tatu. By staying with the same writer, the coverage was more constant and focused than with some of the other newspapers.

Like the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, the PennEast pipeline is still pending approval. Most recently, Christina Tatu published an article titled “More than 1,400 intervenors want to be a part of PennEast Pipeline process,” in which she wrote about those opposed to the pipeline and what the interveners are doing to try and stop it (Tatu 2015). She balanced her sourcing by talking to officials in the area and a woman involved in an environmental group against the pipeline as well as a PennEast spokeswoman.

The Morning Call, as opposed to the other newspapers previously discussed, has not been writing editorials on the PennEast pipeline. This is not surprising because they do not have a very developed opinion section, with only one constant column and opinion pieces written by outside sources. However, the Letters to the Editor written to The Morning Call have been negative. Just like Lancaster Online, the first 10 Letters to the Editor were all negatively slanted in both the headlines and throughout the letter.

With local media, the news is usually focused on the implications for people in the affected area, whether they are economic, political or social. Because of this, they have the potential to affect the reader’s opinion on the subject. When the writing is more focused on a reader personally, he or she may feel even more involved in the subject.

However, the writers and newspapers as a whole could also do a poor job relaying the news to the readers. This might happen when the writing does not capture and hold the reader’s attention, or the topic is just not interesting to a majority of readers. For college students, who are the future of environmental initiatives, the topic of pipelines does not seem to be interesting. In a survey of 43 Lehigh University students, about 37 percent of these students had never heard of the pipeline issues in the United States, as compared to the 23 percent of students who said they know a lot about the topic.

Even for those who are informed about the pipelines, the media may have no effect on their viewpoints. In the survey of Lehigh students, 79 percent of them said that the media had no effect on their already-formed viewpoints on the pipeline issues when he or she read an article on the issue, 16 percent said they saw a negative effect and only 5 percent saw a positive effect.

With all of the articles and opinion pieces written on the pipeline issues in the United States, the views of the public may not always be affected as much as some expect. The goal of a reporter, according to the agenda-setting theory, is to tell the public not what to think, but what to think about. By simply writing about the controversy surrounding the pipelines in the United States, the media is telling the public what to think about and it may even be subconsciously affecting their viewpoints on the topic.