Complicit Local Media Fails On Earthquake Coverage

Image of  protest sign

The media coverage of the 4.3-magnitude earthquake that shook central Oklahoma Tuesday was complacent and routine.

That’s probably just what the oil and gas industry wants.

A glance at online reports about the quakes from The Oklahoman, News 9, KOCO/Channel 5 and NewsChannel 4 shows they didn’t even mention how scientists claim the dramatic surge in earthquakes here are caused by the oil and gas drilling process known a hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

The rhetorical structure of how the local media now covers stronger earthquakes has become a pattern: Note the magnitude of the earthquake, quote the impressions of people who felt it and then offer up some video of stuff shaking on the walls, ceilings and shelves.

When a larger, frightening earthquake strikes these days we end up reading quotes like this: “My dad said maybe the good lord was trying to tell someone something, and I said if he was talking to me, I sure got the message.” Here’s another one: “The hummingbird feeder on the front porch was moving and a swing seat on the porch was rattling pretty good.” Colorful, right?

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these standard person-on-the-street statements, of course, but they are presented with a gaping lack of context.

I want to point this out in harsh terms. The local corporate media coverage of our state’s earthquake problem and the problems inherent in fracking is biased and unethical. If and when a major earthquake strikes here causing large-scale damage and bodily harm, the corporate media will be as much to blame as state leaders who have failed to act with urgency to address the state’s obvious earthquake emergency.

Any media outlet reporting on an earthquake here that’s 3.0-magnitude or above should at the very least mention the growing scientific evidence that it was probably caused by disposal wells used in the fracking process. The failure to do so is a cover-up for the oil and gas industry.

So let me reiterate. Fracking is a drilling process in which water laced with chemicals is injected underground into rock formations, releasing oil and gas from crevices or veins. The wastewater is then injected by high pressure into what are called disposal or injection wells. The disposal well process is what scientists believe is causing the hundreds of earthquakes the state has experienced in the last few years.

The numbers are staggering. Here’s just one: Reuters recently reported that there have been 292 earthquakes of a 3.0-magnitude or higher so far this year in Oklahoma, but that was at least a week ago. The number is surely close to 300 or more by now.

There have been some recent developments about growing protests against fracking. I wrote about those developments here.

The corporate media here is undoubtedly dependent on the oil and gas industry for advertising dollars. The oil and gas industry political lobby is large and well funded here and elsewhere and that plays into the media’s complicity as well.