Accuracy in Media

New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta moved into the role of advocate in her article “The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?”

Early in the piece, Sengupta unquestioningly accepts the premise of a U.N. report without setting up a contextual explanation of how decimating the coal industry would hurt the poor.

“An October report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on global warming found that avoiding the worst devastation would require a radical transformation of the world economy in just a few years,” Sengupta wrote.

Sengupta describes coal as a throwback to a Norman Rockwell-type mythology that has been exploited by selfish, “right-wing” politicians: “In the public imagination, the coal miner has long been a symbol of industrial virility, a throwback to an era when hard labor — particularly men’s labor, rather than robots — fueled economic growth. That idea has been central to politics. German coal miners have lifted the fortunes of that country’s far-right party. Poland’s right-wing government has promised to open new coal mines. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, rose to power as a champion of coal.”

Sengupta also uses the occasion to attack the Trump administration.

“President Trump has promised, unsuccessfully so far, to revive coal mining jobs and instructed his Environmental Protection Agency to roll back rules to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants,” Sengupta writes.

“That message might be welcome in American coal country, but the industry’s future in the United States is not promising. There are cheaper fuels, including natural gas; gas now accounts for around 31 percent of total power generation in the United States, the same share as coal. China has imposed tariffs on coal imports from the United States, in the tit-for-tat trade dispute. More than 200 coal plants have closed since 2010, and coal consumption has continued to decline, contrary to Mr. Trump’s false claims. Coal mining jobs have plummeted over the last decade, despite a modest increase of about 4 percent in the first 18 months of the Trump presidency.”

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