Sarah Jane Kyle: Taking advantage of the public’s trust to push her pet agenda, or shoddy journalism? You be the judge:
The Fort Collins Coloradoan has a new “Sustainability” beat, and the bungling Sarah Jane Kyle is just the one for the job. When a company has a new position to fill, who better to fill it than someone with a history of indefatigable mediocrity. The print news industry long ago kissed goodbye the journalistic pretense of investigative reporting and the holding accountable of public officials, instead opting to bolster progressive narratives and agendas while mixing in a little news now and again. Look no further than the drivel Sarah Jane Kyle passes for journalism, and her reward as “Sustainability” reporter of the increasingly irrelevant Coloradoan.
First Ms. Kyle signed her name to a misleading story entitled “Tired of the brown cloud in Fort Collins? Chances are, you’re largely to blame.” It was printed with an above the fold, full page-width image of a clear day juxtaposed to a hazy day. Then, she reported on the awesomely awesomeness of electric cars, failing to execute anything resembling due diligence on that story.
This post will unpack the former, which can be read here.
Driving your car, Ms. Kyle asserts, produces a hideously unhealthy smog blanket that smothers us all. One look at the headline and the massive image is enough to make anybody want to drop everything and tackle this pressing health risk. Thankfully, Melissa Hovey, a senior environmental planner focused on air quality with city of Fort Collins, tells us that the “Climate Action Plan is currently being updated to meet calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced.” Swell: we have a problem and our local government is on it!
One pesky problem: It. Was. Fake. Fake image, there is no brown cloud. With no brown cloud existing, there is nobody to blame for ruining our breathing air and visibility. So now the headline is just as bogus as the image.
How do I know it was a fake, photo-shopped image? First, I used my brain and looked at the slider tool on the website. The clear-day image had two vehicles in it, and sliding the hazy image over the clear one showed that the trucks did not move, but became obscured by so-called haze. Hmmm, sure doesn’t look like two different images from two different days; conveniently, nobody reading the print edition could have observed this. Having applied simple logic, I then saw that the City of Fort Collins was cited as the source for the photo. I clicked on the image and was directly linked to the city’s report where the photo is captioned as “simulated.” Yup, a little logic and one click was all it took, and I never even went to J-school!
Any reputable publication would admit their error and want the record corrected—hope spring’s eternal! I tweeted them their glaring error, and they replied with denial, condescension, denial again, an ultimately a reluctant walk-back scapegoating the city. My favorite was when they said (paraphrase) “We checked and you are wrong, it’s totally two different pictures. Mmmmkthanks”
And finally, it totally wasn’t her fault, it was the City of Fort Collins. C’mon, it was obviously fake by looking at it, and verifiably so by making ONE click:
At this point, you might be saying to yourself “just because the picture is fake, doesn’t mean we don’t have a smog problem. Buried at the end of the article, after you’ve seen the sensational headline, horrifying image, read all about citizens’ polluting behaviors, and been advised (fear-mongered) to avoid outdoor exercise, this little tidbit is mentioned:
“The brown cloud, which is primarily a visual impediment but can cause or exacerbate health issues, occurs when pollutants are trapped by temperature inversions and linger until they’re blown away.”
So forget everything you’ve just been agitated into believing, health issues are not necessarily attributed to the “brown cloud,” and the smog is actually caused by naturally occurring temperature inversions.
Here’s what an honest report on this topic might look like:
Geographer Amanda Briney:
Temperature inversions are “areas where the normal decrease in air temperature with increasing altitude is reversed and air above the ground is warmer than the air below it…
More from Amanda Briney (emphasis added):
When an inversion is present, the increased density of the air traps pollutants closer to ground level rather than circulating them away. It can happen when the air near the ground rapidly loses its heat on a clear night. In this situation, the ground becomes cooled quickly while the air above it retains the heat the ground was holding during the day…Topography can also play a role in creating a temperature inversion since it can sometimes cause cold air to flow from mountain peaks down into valleys. This cold air then pushes under the warmer air rising from the valley, creating the inversion. In addition, inversions can also form in areas with significant snow cover because the snow at ground level is cold and its white color reflects almost all heat coming in. Thus, the air above the snow is often warmer because it holds the reflected energy.
Here in Northern Colorado, we often experience rapidly cooling nights, significant snowfalls, and we have perfect topography for temperature inversions to form. Inversions are a phenomenon of nature and will never stop. They result in changing air densities that trap air rather than circulate it. In population centers where people live, work, produce, recreate, engage in commerce, and seek higher education, inversions can cause smog. The health effects of this are unknown and have not been scientifically quantified, in part because there are too many variables. It is arrogant to think that the CAP proposals will have any effect on the frequency of inversions. What the CAP will do if successfully implemented is squash the economic activity, livability, and quality of life apparatuses that I incompletely listed above. Yes, quality of life. Stay tuned for that post. But forcing all of this for the unattainable purpose of negating a natural process of nature? If only we were able to foresee the unintended costs, consequences and certain failures…more on that to come too.