M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘local-news

Dumber’n a Box of Rocks: How to Slime an Entire City

leave a comment »


Under the headline “US town rejects solar panels amid fears they ‘suck up all the energy from the sun,'” The Independent today picks up on a five-day-old local story from Woodland, North Carolina, where the Town Council’s rejection of a rezoning proposal killed plans to build a solar farm.

The Independent rewrite of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald account does the town no favors, beginning with the headline, which suggests the councilors voted no because they’re ignorant of basic science. To support that spin, it picks up and slightly recasts two quotations from the original article:

“Jane Mann, a retired science teacher, said she was concerned the panels would prevent plants in the area from photosynthesizing, stopping them from growing.”


“During the Woodland Town Council meeting, one local man, Bobby Mann, said solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not go to Woodland.”

Of course, the “stupid hick Southern town” interpretation hit the snarkerati right in its sweet spot:

  • North Carolina town rejects solar because it’ll suck up sunlight and kill the plants (BoingBoing — complete with an illustration of Alfred E. Newman with his finger up his nose)
  • Woodland, NC bans solar farm out of fear it will steal sun’s energy … No, seriously! (Daily Kos, with the lead: “The stupid, it burns ….”)
  • Batsh*t Crazy NC Town Says No To Solar Panels That Will ‘Suck Up All The Sun’s Energy’ (Addicting Info, which concludes: “None of it mattered in the end, as a majority of the town council voted against the sciency stuff and sided with the ridiculous concerns of the people.”)

The lazy … it hurts.

If you take the time to read the source article, you find that’s distortion on a Hello Dali level.

The bulk of the article recounts legitimate economic concerns:




And even the casting of Jane Mann’s comments is tendentious, at best. Here’s the entire passage citing her:

Jane Mann said she is a local native and is concerned about the plants that make the community beautiful.

She is a retired Northampton science teacher and is concerned that photosynthesis, which depends upon sunlight, would not happen and would keep the plants from growing. She said she has observed areas near solar panels where the plants are brown and dead because they did not get enough sunlight.

She also questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her that solar panels didn’t cause cancer.

Notice that Ms. Mann isn’t quoted as explicitly suggesting that solar panels redirect sunlight away from plants. She says that in her observation they sometimes restrict photosynthesis in plants.

Now, it might well be that Ms. Mann truly isn’t familiar with how photosynthesis and solar panels work. Or it might also be that Ms. Mann was reporting what anyone who has visited a solar farm has seen: Plants behind the panels — plants that are shaded by the panels and receive little sunlight as a result — do, indeed, go brown and die. Solar farm panels are quite large, and they cast significant shadows.

The Independent and its derivative traders stop at the mockable, however, and call it a day.

Indeed, the only clearly uninformed speaker in the entire source article is Bobby Mann — and even he raises other economic questions worthy of debate:

Bobby Mann said he watched communities dry up when I-95 came along and warned that would happen to Woodland because of the solar farms.

“You’re killing your town,” he said. “All the young people are going to move out.”

He said the solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not come to Woodland.

When you boil it down, the Independent article rests on that last single paragraph. The rest of it might as well not exist, because it soils the snootiness.

I’m from the South, and I used to live and work in North Carolina, so I’m afflicted by an extra-sensitive attunement to lazy “those dumb rednecks” stories.

But you don’t have to be a Southerner to recognize that The Independent cherry-picked two quotations from a straight report on a legitimate policy debate to poke thought-free fun at an entire town.

And as for BoingBoing and the other side-swipe pickup artists, we have a saying for them down where I come from: They’re so stuck up, they’d drown in the shower.

Written by Alex

December 13, 2015 at 2:08 pm

The Reader’s Guide to Journalists

with one comment

Rule No. 53: Any place that isn’t New York, Boston, Los Angeles or San Francisco is “the heartland.”

Read all the rules.

Written by Alex

April 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Police Blotter of the Day: Suspect says that’s not my pot — it was already in the car when I stole it

with one comment

Douglas Glidden

Douglas Glidden (Androscoggin County Jail via Sun Journal)

LIVERMORE FALLS — Police said a Jay man was adamant that the marijuana police found in the car he was driving was not his because he had just stolen the car.

Full story (Franklin, Maine, Sun Journal)

Written by Alex

April 10, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Of COURSE It’s Florida: Topless thong-clad woman vandalizes McDonald’s

leave a comment »

IMAGE: Security camera video

Of COURSE there’s video. (Pinellas Park, Fla., police via WFLA-TV)

Topless thong-clad woman vandalizes Pinellas Park McDonald’s

A Pinellas Park woman shown topless and wearing a thong as she vandalizes a Pinellas Park McDonald’s was arrested for criminal mischief.

Full story (WFLA-TV)

Written by Alex

April 8, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Police Blotter of the Day: Utah woman tries to commit arson using bacon, police say

with 4 comments

IMAGE: Cameo Crispi mugshot

(Uintah County, Utah, Sheriff’s Office)

NAPLES, Uintah County — A Uintah County woman is accused of trying to set fire to her ex-boyfriend’s home with a pound of bacon left burning on a gas stove.

And here’s the best part:

Cameo Adawn Crispi, 31, was charged Wednesday in 8th District Court with arson, a third-degree felony.

Yes. Crispi. According to police, it was a Crispi bacon attack.

Full story (KSL-TV of Salt Lake City)

Written by Alex

March 28, 2014 at 6:36 pm

The Reader’s Guide to Journalists (Cont’d)

leave a comment »

Rule No. 48: If one analyst or expert disagrees, it’s a controversy.

Read all the rules.

Written by Alex

March 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Police Blotter of the Day: Deputies: Girlfriend struck with anger management book

leave a comment »

Spartanburg County deputies have arrested a man who they say hit his girlfriend with a workbook from his anger management class during an argument, and she cut his arm with a boxcutter.

Full story (Spartanburg, S.C., Herald-Journal)

Written by Alex

March 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Police Blotter of the Day: New Orleans police officer arrested after leading police officers on high-speed chase

leave a comment »

IMAGE: NOPD Sgt. Charles Miller

(New Orleans Police Department via WDSU)

Detectives said Miller sped off in his truck and led the officer on a high-speed chase.

During the chase Miller ran a stop sign, drove through a red light, drove at speeds near 90 miles per hour and committed other traffic violations.

Full story (WDSU-TV)

Written by Alex

March 24, 2014 at 12:18 pm

The Reader’s Guide to Journalists (Cont’d)

leave a comment »

Rule No. 46: There are only two kinds of gunfire: “sporadic” or “rapid-fire.”

Read all the rules.

Written by Alex

March 24, 2014 at 11:43 am

Police Blotter of the Day: Man missing three days found naked in electric transformer box

with one comment

IMAGE: Bryan Hulse

Bryan Hulse, 29, of Houma, La., was reported missing Sunday. (WLOX-TV)

Bass said the investigation revealed the 5-foot-3, 200-pound Hulse was aware of the search and had been hiding for several days in a breaker-control cabinet at the substation, which is surrounded by a metal fence topped with barbed wire. …

Bass said Hulse has been charged with possession of a controlled substance and is in custody pending a bond hearing.

Full story (Biloxi, Miss., Sun-Herald)

Written by Alex

March 19, 2014 at 1:51 pm