I'm keeping the Empire's June 4 headline "Begich makes pipeline gaffe in speech," for the next time I'm a guest speaker in a journalism class as an example of one of the worst breaches of journalistic ethics I've seen in nearly 20 years in this business.
Sen. Mark Begich's comments about lack of progress toward an Alaska natural gas pipeline, arguably the most important project for Alaska's economic future, was no mistake. The accompanying Associated Press story accurately summarized the senator's views. By headlining his opinion as a "gaffe," the Empire went beyond any sense of impartiality and into the realm of advocacy journalism on the front page where it doesn't belong.
Sen. Begich firmly believes Alaska may be missing the window to sell its natural gas in a national market that is quickly getting filled with gas from other sources. Others may or may not agree with him, and that is a legitimate and welcome part of the public policy debate.
But the Empire failed miserably in its obligation to present its readers with factual information on which to base their own opinions. I'm optimistic your headline was the exception and not the rule, and we can look forward to a future of impartiality from one of Alaska's major newspapers. In any event, it will be an interesting discussion for the journalism students.
Press secretary for Sen. Mark Begich
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