Shell & Canwest bring you an "Information feature"
We've been chatting the past couple days, here in the office, over an interesting full page ad...err...news article...err..."special information feature on climate change" that has appeared in the Ottawa Citizen (and the National Post, Calgary Herald, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, and possibly others) the past couple of weekends.
Indeed, it is quite unclear what this thing is. It looks like a regular newspaper article, has nice pictures, is seemingly well-written, and would appear to be written by a legitimate journalist. Yet, something isn't quite right.
The full title reads "New Energy Future: The Energy Challenge and Environmental Responsibility." So far so good. I'm intrigued really - until the next line that is: "A six-week Canwest special information feature on climate change, in partnership with Shell Canada."
Yes, the good people at Shell Canada with all their expertise on climate change are graciously giving us SIX WEEKS of their time to educate us, the general public, on climate change - and all the great things they do.
Shell Canada, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, is one of Canada's largest oil firms and has close to 1/3 of the firms total resource base tied up in the oil sands.
It would appear then that these committed environmentalists at Shell Canada have in essence invested one third of their company's potential success in the Alberta Tar Sands, one of the single biggest producers of greenhouse gases in the world. Meanwhile, the Athabaska River, has seen pollution levels rise as a direct result of oil sands operations - some of which were conducted by Shell (Click here for more information).
Reading this Shell *cough* article though I was surprised to learn that this was all a myth. Found at the bottom of the article was this gem:
MYTH: Shell’s oil sands mining operations are polluting the Athabasca River.
REALITY: Shell staff chemist Brad Komishke says this belief overlooks oil sands geology. Despite the fact oil sands have been leaching naturally into the river for the past 10,000 years, Shell ensures its operations don’t add a drop to that. “We contain all the process water and rain water on our sites to make sure they don’t flow into the river.”
Fair enough to assume that the Shell staff chemist would say that the Athabasca River is not being polluted. Now, let's read the counter point...except...ah yes, there isn't one.
A hallmark of journalism is to show both sides of the story to provide balance and therein lies the real problem. It is one thing to present this as an ad. It is another to present this as journalism, which is what Shell is attempting to do. In no way does this look like an ad. Furthermore, Brian Burton is no journalist ("My goal is to advocate successfully for my clients in the court of public opinion" reads his linkedin profile).
Canwest, which calls itself a news organization, should know better - a "Special information feature on climate change" - fancy words by Shell for shameless self-promotion.