Am I a fearmonger?

In reaction to Sunday’s story about crude oil transport by rail, James Rod Gonzalez writes to The Record:

“Your choosing to run an ‘opinion piece’ from the Environmental Zealot, and blogger, Alex Breitler on the front page, is again showing your… disdain for reality and the welfare of the community you espouse to serve. The sky is falling mentality of Breitler and his minions is astonishing and their attempt to gin up fear of something that as he even states, ‘Stockton is off the beaten path for at least some of these shipments… traveling through Sacramento on the way to Bay Area refineries.’ This fear mongering being represented as front page news when Stockton already has more than enough issues to really fear is totally unconscionable, and on the part of the Record and your editorial staff, immoral. You and your staff manage to make the lives of Stocktonians bad enough just reporting things that are happening not ‘what if’ fairy tales of an Environmental Justice blogger. While I doubt that this letter will be published, someone, and I sincerely hope more than I, must call you on it!”

Didn’t know I had minions.

Seriously though, I appreciate the note and I understand the concern about making a big deal out of something that might never happen here — in this case, some kind of dangerous crude oil spill.

There’s a lot of “coulds” in environment journalism. That blue-green algae in the San Joaquin River could make you sick. The proposed twin tunnels could harm Stockton’s new $220 million drinking-water plant. Pesticide drift from farmers’ fields could sicken nearby residents.

I can’t look into my crystal ball and tell you which of all those “coulds” will become a “did.”

But I think it’s important to at least talk about this stuff.

If I was an “Environmental Zealot” as Mr. Gonzalez says, I wouldn’t point out in that story that many of these crude oil trains are likely bypassing Stockton. I wouldn’t include a statement from a Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokeswoman that only two crude oil trains enter the state of California on that railroad in an entire month. And I wouldn’t include statements from the Port of Stockton’s director about taxes and jobs benefits from a proposed petroleum terminal here.

Context. The other side. More often, multiple other sides.

That’s the difference between journalism and “fairy tales.”

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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