October 11, 2007

A recent CFRTAC commentary aired on Montana Public Radio looked at media coverage of Clark Fork Superfund issues. CFRTAC coordinator Michael Kustudia explores the media’s penchant for conflict narratives.

Here’s an excerpt:

Us against them reportage is a media staple. One recent example came this summer from NPR’s coverage of the Clark Fork cleanup. The Seattle based correspondent seemed to arrive with a prefab storyline that pitted the Old West against new rich Californians. The story cast the Milltown cleanup as merely an example of environmental gentrification carried out for wealthy out of staters. And what’s worse, the piece suggested for a national audience that the Milltown project was somehow coming at the expense of cleanups upriver on the Clark Fork.

While it’s frustrating to hear such misrepresentations, it is useful because it raises a larger question. Is conflict the only frame for telling stories about the world we live in? There’s a danger that conflict narratives flatten out the life’s complexities, that they distort reality and that they even help perpetuate conflict itself. And sometimes it misses the real issue.

Read the rest here (PDF).

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