The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

What Washington Post is to the D.C Lead case now, New York Times and CEN were to the Bhopal incident (Hazarika, 1994). From initial coverage to follow-up articles on these environmental disasters, these print media agencies played a huge role in spreading awareness and pushing for reforms. With this, and a few other reasons that I shall discuss here,I definitely believe that the media has a very,very important role to play.

However, that said, politics has ensured that media succumbs to the very ‘heresy’ of bias that they fear (Miller, 2009). I remember Dr. Edwards’ mentioning in one of our classes that the number of environmental journalists in the U.S has declined drastically over the years. Why is this? I think it is because they feel ‘wasted’ in their position as writers if they cannot report what is as is but are forced to say what their agency wants them to. In a sense, it is all business – business of churning our interesting news yet playing the stealthy advocate.

Let me ask you all honestly – how many of you trust the news you read? I mean, not the front page cover up of incidents but stuff like environmental news? By now we all know that we pretty much tend to ignore or just ‘read for fun’ stuff about global warming right? Why does the media continue to write about it then? If you look at the article in the UK Daily Mail that Dr. Edwards’ sent out a couple of weeks ago, Prof Muller of Berkeley turned to the media just about the time when his review paper on global warming was to be published. Most of his fellow professors considered this as a ‘publicity stunt’ and were not too happy about it. Why did the media think of listening to him without looking at the credibility of his claims?

But yet, I must say that the role of the media IS indeed important. No, I’m not contradicting myself, I’m just trying to get across the point that they are important but either a) they take themselves to be more important than they are; by believing that people will just believe them no matter what the truth or b) they take themselves verryy lightly and believe that people will read sensational news today and disregard it tomorrow – it’s all about covering the now smartly. I’m not sure. Any thoughts?

Withe the Bhopal incident, I felt like the pieces of the puzzle were falling together. No matter what the industry says to protect themselves, to me, they are heartless perpetrators. I’m not one to generalize usually, but somewhere with all that I’ve been reading, the industry seems like the villain. The callousness with which they pit cost over life is….appalling. We’ve seen it in the DC case, in Libby and now here. It amazed and amused me that they were grumbling over having to pay for remediating their dumping sites. I mean, really now – is it that hard to understand? C’mon, pay for your mess! If you won’t who will?! The citizens who may or not be killed by the stuff you put out? Or the Government, who by the way uses tax payer’s money for it all? What did they think – they would come create jobs, make useful products and all that jazz and they’ve done mankind SUCH a huge favor? Will they tell the people “Now, go on, give us a break and do some clean up – we’ve had a long day and are tired?”

In a way, all of us are environmental journalists. As we sit writing these blogs, we are conveying information to maybe 1, maybe 100, people out there who will learn from us. I think we must, thus, write with our reporting hats on – keeping in mind that someone somewhere may be reading us.


1. Miller, N. 2009. “The Media Business.” In Environmental Politics: Stakeholders, Interest, and Policymaking, 2nd ed., pp. 149-165. New York and London: Routledge.

2. Hazarika, S. 1994. “From Bhopal to Superfund: The News Media and the Environment,” pp. 1-14.

3. Sismondo, S. 2010. “The Public Understanding of Science.” In An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, 2nd ed., pp. 168-179. West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

4. Davis, M. 1998. “Avoiding the Tragedy of Whistleblowing.” In Thinking Like an Engineer: Studies in the Ethics of a Profession, pp. 73-82. New York, NY and Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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