By day, John Methia is director of broadcast operations at WLNE-TV in Providence. By night, he's an activist with the Fairhaven group "WindWise" that promotes wind energy hypochondria, trying to convince people that wind turbines cause just about every malady known to man or beast.
As Dean Starkman writes at GoLocalProv.com, those lines have blurred when Methia's footage trying to discredit the turbines has aired on WLNE newscasts:
When Methia is shooting footage, he starts to put on a journalist’s hat. He is gathering news. I don’t see much distinction between taking photos, or video, and taking notes in a reporter’s notebook. Each act requires a process of selection. Some images or facts are included; some are left out. It shouldn’t come as a huge shock, for instance, that the Methia video that made it on the air would tend to be material that the anti-turbine people would want to see.Methia is clearly trying to have it both ways - he wants to be a political activist by night, while being able to stroll across the TV station and place footage into the news director's hands by day. "If Methia wants to stay active, and there’s no real reason he shouldn’t, he should avoid news-gathering," Starkman concludes. "If he wants to gather news, he should be held to journalists’ standards."
But wait: shouldn’t Methia’s video be considered like any other video coming over the transom – something to be evaluated by news personnel?In theory, there’s no difference. But in practice, what’s happening here is that a news organization employee – and with some clout, after all, even if he’s not on the news side -- is gathering material for broadcast, and lo, it gets on the air.
Here, the pro-turbine people would seem to have a beef. Indeed, it’s a lot for ABC6 to ask viewers to trust some theoretical Chinese Wall between the business side and news, especially on such a hot-button issue. This is a bridge too far.
Underhanded tactics like this are why anti-wind activists keep losing public support. No one believes their absurd health claims, so they're left to sneaking their propaganda videos into newscasts, dragging out dead-end legal battles, and using bullying and intimidation to try to get their way.
Years from now, the generation that's grown up with wind turbines will find them just as unremarkable as previous generations found radio towers and cell phone towers, and they'll wonder why anyone ever listened to anti-wind activists.