M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘north-carolina

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

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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

Police Blotter of the Century: For suspect, gun is a .38-caliber pain in the …

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Authorities believe Michael Ward concealed this .38-caliber revolver by hiding it where the sun don't shine. (WITN-TV)

A man pulled who was pulled over for a traffic violation in North Carolina was found this week with a gun in his jail cell — a big gun that authorities believe he hid in his rectum.

Deputies said the man — who claimed he was disabled and couldn’t walk — was searched and strip-searched both at a hosital and at the Onslow County, N.C., jail before he was placed into a holding cell. Jailers even made him perform what they call a “squat and cough” procedure.

No gun.

Only later did the .38-caliber revolver — 10 inches long, with a 4½-inch barrel — turn up.

Ward was taken back to the hospital Friday for examination of “possible injuries that may have occurred” to his rectum.

Full story (M. Alex Johnson/msnbc.com with WITN-TV and WNCN-TV)

Written by Alex

January 13, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Police Blotter of the Day: TV station gets it wrong (was: Inattentive jogger slams back of school bus)

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Update: The Greensboro News & Record reports that this story is wrong in just about every particular. Making a point to call out the station by name, it quotes the woman’s husband and the police incident report as saying that she did not run into a stopped bus and that she was not distracted by her mp3 player. Worse, it says, she was quite seriously injured.

Thank you to NCDawn, who alerted me to this in the comments.

Full story (News & Record)

“A jogger who Greensboro police said wasn’t paying attention was injured by running into the back of a stopped bus at about 8 a.m. …

“No charges were filed.”


Full story (WGHP-TV of Winston-Salem, N.C.)

Written by Alex

June 6, 2011 at 11:25 am