Washington Post / AP propaganda photo - "emissions spew" from power plant

From: David Burton Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM
To: "Doug Feaver, Washington Post Reader Reprentative" <readers@washpost.com>

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               AP / Washington Post view                                                                Normal view

Dear Mr. Feaver,

Now that there's no Ombudsman at the Washington Post, do the reporters and editors think truth doesn't matter?

Here's a March 15 story by the Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin:

This is the lead photo, of Westar Energy's Jeffrey Energy Center "spewing emissions" from coal:

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 Charlie Riedel/AP - Silhouetted against the sky at dusk, emissions spew from the smokestacks
        at Westar Energy's Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant near St. Mary's, Kan.

And what do you suppose those black, deadly-looking plumes of “emissions” really are?

Condensing steam, that's what. Just plain water.

Plumes of condensing water vapor normally look white and benign, but by artfully choosing a vantage point to the east of the plant, and a time just after sunset, AP photographer Charlie Riedel managed to make the pretty white plumes look black and threatening.

That power plant has state-of-the-art "scrubbers," which which cost over $400 million, and which remove 95% of the SO2 and nearly all of the particulate matter. Almost nothing visible is left except steam. Here’s what those same stacks really look like, under normal lighting conditions:

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You've got to grudgingly admire the AP / Washington Post's mastery of the propaganda craft.

I sent an email similar to the above to Westar Energy, and got back the following reply:

---------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: <CorpComm@westarenergy.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM
Subject: Re: Washington Post / AP propaganda photo - "emissions spew" from power plant
To: David Burton

Hello, and thanks for forwarding this information. 

We have contacted AP numerous times regarding this photo. We agree that it is a skilled photographer using lighting to create a dramatic image that reinforces the story. 

Here's the latest that Gina Penzig, Director, Corporate Communications, sent: 

I appreciate that Charlie is a skilled photographer who used backlighting to capture a dramatic image of the plant that reinforces the emissions story and the perception that power plants are dirty. I fully acknowledge that plants are a source of emissions and the EPA work to reduce emissions has been important. We're in the midst of spending billions of dollars to change the make up of that plume from our coal plants to almost completely steam. In fact at JEC, we're very close. (I'd love to set up a tour and talk about what we've done. We're pretty proud of it.) 

I'd like to point out that the photo is nearly four years old. I'm not asking that it be replaced with a photo that we provide. I'd challenge the photo editors to look up Jeffrey Energy Center on Google images. You will see a variety of photos from a variety of sources that show a more accurate representation of the plant and what it emits. A photographer can easily capture a plant photo from off of our property, but I'd gladly set up an escort for a photographer who would like to go onto the plant site. 

Thank you again for sharing the information with us!
Alice K. Landers
Communications Representative
Corporate Communications
Westar Energy, Inc.
---------- End forwarded message ----------

What shameful, shameful misbehavior by the Washington Post!

Please print an apology, and appropriately discipline the responsible parties, and tell me what action you're taking.


via facebook, March 20, 10:51am
From: David Burton
To: Juliet Eilperin
Who chose that deceptive "coal smoke" photo & caption to go with your 3/15/2013 story? Did YOU do that??
I've written to the WP's Reader Representative about it: http://tinyurl.com/WPfakeSmoke


via facebook, March 22, 3:05pm
From: David Burton
To: Juliet Eilperin
If YOU picked that photo, you owe Westar Energy a huge apology for smearing their good name, and you own your readers a huge apology for misleading them.
If someone ELSE picked that photo, you should be furious with them.
Come on, tell me. Who's the guilty party?


From: David Burton Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:24 PM
To: "Doug Feaver, Washington Post Reader Reprentative" <readers@washpost.com>

Mr. Feaver, I'm disappointed that nine days have elapsed, and I've still not received a reply to my emails to you, nor any response from Juliet Eliperin to the Facebook messages which I sent directly to her.

Nor, as far as I can tell, has there been any apology or correction in the Washington Post for that shockingly dishonest photo, misleading WaPo readers, and smearing the reputations of Westar's management and employees.

Frankly, it appears that the WaPo's claimed continuing commitments to the "highest standards of journalism," and to "remain faithful" to the mission of the abolished Ombudsman position were untruthful. It appears that the real purpose for the creation of the Reader Representative position was not to implement those lofty commitments, but, rather, to provide a smokescreen for the WaPo's abandonment of those commitments.

Please demonstrate that that is not the case.


From: David Burton Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 2:24 PM
To: "Doug Feaver, Washington Post Reader Reprentative" <readers@washpost.com>
Cc: Steven J. Milloy, Accuracy in Media, Anthony Watts, Westar Energy, Steve Goddard, Energy Nation, Will Sommer, Center for Media and Public Affairs, Greg Mitchel, Media Matters, American Journalism Review, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, Columbia Journalism Review, Media Watch, Project Censored, Jan Gardner Neiman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard ...

Mr. Feaver, are you there? It's been 2.5 weeks since I first wrote to you about the Washington Post's shockingly dishonest March 15 "fake smoke" photo & caption, which smeared Westar Energy & misled your readers. What are you doing about it?

I put a copy of my still-unanswered letter to you on my web site, here:  http://tinyurl.com/WPfakeSmoke  I'd be happy to add your response to that web page, if you'd like me to do so.

Please reply!


From: Readers Internet DropBox Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 3:09 PM
To: David Burton

Hi Mr. Burton,

We received your e-mail and are looking into it. I am out of the office next week and the reader representative is only part time so it may take a little while longer to get back to you. This takes a little bit of research and we have an array of other issues we deal with on a daily basis, but we will get back to you.


Alison Coglianese
Assistant Reader Representative
The Washington Post

 Permalink: http://tinyurl.com/WPfakeSmoke