In ‘on-the-air’ reporting, nothing less than the most accurate, authentic will do

Since I’m the type of person who watches and reads the news with the regularity of a clock, what I expect to see, hear, read is nothing short of certainty and I think everyone who gets information, no matter the information got, should expect nothing less.

The problem – and this has been a recurring notion this year – is how we know that which is news-wise and being both visually and audibly received, is both accurate and authentic.

The best way I can lend credence is to provide a pointed example.

Rewind to the date Nov. 8, year 2014. It was at this time that I posted: “Horrendous air or no let the Friday night football games begin.”

Referenced in such was the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s “Abnormal weather conditions create dangerously high levels of air pollution” Nov. 7th news release.

In particular is the following referenced statement: “‘Because of abnormal weather conditions, we are experiencing unusually high pollution levels that are dangerous to public health.’” In the exact same release, this statement by the air district’s executive director and air pollution control officer Seyed Sadredin was supplemented with a second, it being: “While abnormal weather conditions are the primary cause for the high pollution, any added pollution will make the current conditions even worse.”

The weather conditions being referred to here are lack of cleansing wind and rain and stagnant air, an air inversion, in other words.

So, I considered this a bit more and also thought that the Valley’s bowl shape hemmed in by mountain ranges on the east, south and west had to play a contributing role – it had to.

And, what of the pollution itself? Just by virtue of the fact that “abnormal weather conditions” were present, this alone is not enough to say pollution levels dangerous to human health are a given. What if the same exact weather conditions existed elsewhere absent unhealthy pollution? The pollution has to be there to start with.

As far as I’m concerned the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District response in this case is not an accurate one. To me, it’s more a case of the weather and geographic elements are contributing factors, not the cause of the pollution in the air, primary or otherwise.

I say this because statements on this order can lead the reader to believe that all that is needed to eliminate the pollution pervading the area at that time or at any other time, for that matter, is a strong wind, a good rain or both. While a strong wind, a good rain or both may, in fact, provide relief, that relief would just be temporary. The more important consideration in my view is to mitigate the sources and real causes of the pollution – not depend on meteorological factors to clear the air as it were.

By the same token and looking at the opposite situation, that is, where air quality is good or healthy, is it not then fair or appropriate to say something on the order of: “that because of the 20 to 30 mile-per-hour winds blowing out of the northwest toward the southeast, this is the primary reason for the great quality of air we’re experiencing right now”?

In all of my reading on and researching of the air district Web site, I can’t say that I have ever read anything that even closely resembles such a statement and, in the case where improvement in area air has come about, what I do recall reading is that credit for such improvement is given to mandates and programs being responsible for such as well as actions taken by members or entities in the Valley either locally or by the community at large. Again, this is my recollection. Maybe others have noticed this too.

As a matter of fact, in the “A message from the AIR POLLUTION CONTROL OFFICER” section of the latest air district “Report to the Community 2016-2017” document, below is an excerpt of what the Air Pollution Control Officer wrote:

“We in the Valley, including the District and Valley residents and businesses, are committed to leaving no stone unturned in devising and implementing reasonable measures to clean the air. Given the enormity of the challenges, however, success requires that our partners at the state and federal level continue to do their fair share. This includes state and federal aid to the Valley with regulatory and incentive based measures to reduce air pollution from mobile sources, and fine tuning of the federal mandates to ensure fairness and an expeditious attainment of federal standards.

“Looking back over the past twelve months, with ingenuity, creativity and a great deal of sacrifice by Valley businesses, we fulfilled or exceeded all state and federal mandates in a timely fashion. Last year, Valley-wide reductions in emissions were above the federally mandated targets by 73% for nitrogen oxides and 99% for PM2.5.

“2016 was the cleanest year on record for PM2.5. For the first time in recorded history we had no violations of the 1997 daily PM2.5 standard anywhere in the Valley, and we had the highest number of days with Good air quality and the lowest number of days with Unhealthy air quality throughout the Valley. In addition, the EPA declared that the Valley now meets the long-sought 1-hour standard for ozone becoming the first region in the nation to meet a standard after having been classified as extreme non-attainment.”

Some very encouraging words, indeed.

Now specifically as it relates to the winter of 2016-2017, what I remember was what an extremely wet winter in the Valley, that season was. The amount of precipitation that has fallen in Fresno from Oct. 1, 2016 to date is above 17.2 inches. Compare this to the year before where Fresno rain (as of Jun. 22, 2016) totaled 14.29 inches and 6.81 inches the year before that. No reference at all to weather – as contributing either to poor air quality or its improvement – in the Air Pollution Control Officer’s message, which I find rather perplexing.

Just my observation, is all.

This post was last revised on Apr. 30, 2020 @ 12:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

– Alan Kandel