Sunday, October 12, 2008

Klamath Parochialism - What the region’s Mainstream Media are not reporting and why

Those who follow the usual news outlets in Klamath Country might conclude that Klamath River Basin environmental, fishing, tribal and irrigation interest groups are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what emerges from negotiations between PacifiCorp, the Bush Administration and the Governors of Oregon and California over the fate of five Klamath mainstem dams. But there is actually a lot of activity taking place which could impact the future of the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon. Unfortunately, most media outlets which cover Klamath River Basin issues only report when they get a press release telling them what to report. And groups which were once eager to trumpet their actions on behalf of the River and the Salmon have grown reticent. To continue the pretense of “Peace on the Klamath” some Klamath organizations have placed a lid on telling the media about anything that would suggest otherwise.

In addition, editors and reporters at news outlets in the Upper Basin apparently do not read or tune in to news outlets in the Lower Basin and vice versa. We may have become one river basin for purposes of policy and politics, but regional news outlets still treat the Klamath for the most part as if it were two basins – the Klamath Basin in Oregon and the Klamath River in California.

It is for these reasons that citizens who want to be well informed on Klamath issues rely on sources like KlamBlog and Klamath Basin Crisis.

Here are some recent examples of how parochial reporting on Klamath River Basin issues remains:
  • Support for the proposed Agreement: The Klamath Falls Herald and News is the newspaper of record for the Upper Klamath Basin. H&N’s editors strongly support the proposed Klamath River Basin Restoration Agreement (Water Deal) and have editorialized regularly on its behalf. But H&N’s editors have gone further: they have intentionally misreported support for the Deal. For example, the H&N recently reported that “commercial fishermen” support the Water Deal. But these editors are aware that the only organization which represents commercial fishermen in the negotiations which produced the Deal - the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) is on record as requiring further negotiations on 7 key issues – including a guarantee of water for salmon – before they could sign-on in support.
  • H&N editors also report that "many" environmental organizations support the proposed Water Dealand that only "a few" oppose it. Reality is more complex: the major environmental organizations active in the klamath River Basin are spit - some support the Deal released in January, some oppose it and others have not taken a position.
  • Head in the sand: Compared to newspapers which circulate in the lower Klamath River Basin, however, the Herald and News is doing a good job reporting on Klamath River Issues. Whether we consider the Del Norte Triplicate or the two Eureka-based newspapers - the Times Standard and the Reporter - or all three dailies together, reporting on developments in the Upper Klamath River Basin are next to non-existent. For example, none of these papers reported on the ongoing push in the Upper Basin to develop a new dam and reservoir even though the Long Lake water storage proposal could have major implications for the Klamath River and Klamath Salmon.
  • Nor have these newspapers reported on development of the Klamath Water and Power Agency which is designed to facilitate the Upper Basin’s Irrigation Elite’s plans to market water, take over the controversial Klamath Water Bank, control all water and power developments in the Lost River Sub-basin and take over (from PacifiCorp) operation of Keno Dam. These efforts by the Irrigation Elite amount to a strong move to consolidate their control of the Keno Reach of the Klamath River (which is also known as Lake Ewana). The Keno Reservoir currently has the worst water quality of any reach of the Klamath River and fish kills - including federally endangers Kuptu and Tsuam (sucker species) – occur there nearly each year. The Keno reach of the river is also likely to be the main bottleneck which salmon and steelhead face as they attempt to return to the Upper Klamath River Basin.
  • Clueless?: KlamBlog would be remiss if we did not mention the newspaper of record for the Middle Klamath River Basin – the Siskiyou Daily News. Even though this newspaper calls itself a “daily” it does not publish on weekends. KlamBlog admits that it rarely reads the SDN. But a search of the web site indicates that the newspaper has not covered the Long Lake storage proposal or the Klamath Water and Power Agency even though the paper’s home base (Yreka) is the county seat of Siskiyou County. Siskiyou County includes the Tule Lake Area where the Klamath Project’s most valuable farmland and its most valuable wildlife refuges (Lower Klamath and Tule Lake NWRs) are located.

Why don’t the Northcoast/Lower Klamath media report on Upper Basin issues, why do Upper Basin media outlets ignore what is going on in the Lower Basin, and why do mid-Klamath media not report regularly on key developments in the Lower and Upper Basin? KlamBlog thinks it is pure and simple parochialism. One thing is clear, however - until the citizens of the Klamath River Basin insist that news outlets report on the entire basin it is just not going to happen – at least not with any consistency.

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