Those folks at Chesapeake Energy are so thoughty. Realizing that kids dragged to public hearings about the Barnett Shale could get bored and fussy, the drilling company has come up with its latest public service – a coloring book featuring Chesapeake Charlie, the “friendly beagle” intent on spreading the poop, so to speak, about “natural gas production and its many benefits.”
That way, when the talk turns to how the kids are going to lose their sidewalks and swing sets to pipelines, they won’t be paying attention. And what child is going to doubt a beagle who talks up the benefits of “abundant and affordable” natural gas. Not to mention, explosive!
The coloring books, distributed at a neighborhood meeting on the East Side on Monday night, even offer a word search with those terms typically connected with gas drilling – like “American” and “clean.” Those same words are spread throughout the book to make sure kids understand the wonderfulness and patriotism of gas drilling. Perhaps “propaganda” should have been added to the word search. After all, according to our leaders in Washington, brainwashing is also clean and American.
The best part though, was at the back of the book, where Charlie showed the kids another page of fun – a pipeline maze! Too bad there was no place marked “your backyard here.” The puzzle was a little scary, though – you could look at it and start imagining, indeed, all those pipelines full of odorless gas, running under yards and beside playgrounds.
Inside the Sycamore Community Center, Chesapeake “experts” answered questions about pipelines for folks in the Carter-Riverside area. Snazzy brochures extolled the virtues of digging up people’s yards and cutting down old trees.
Outside, protesters carried signs and chanted, “Not this week, not next week, go away Chesapeake!” Company officials looked out windows and laughed at the protesters. They didn’t see the humor when one of them slapped a “Just Say No to Gas Drilling” sticker on a Chesapeake bumper.
Police hung out with gas company reps in the air conditioning, poised to spring into action in case demonstrators got out of hand, which was unlikely since most were on the downhill side of middle age and, sans signs, are your typical Fort Worth resident trying to protect their neighborhoods’ quality of life. Can you say “embattled?”
Journalists love to see results from their work, other than a paycheck and continuation of valuable employee privileges such as the choice of any unclaimed, broken-down chair in the newsroom. It’s especially nice when the journalists are students. Teaches them early to wish for those moments that will come so rarely in their professional careers.
Case in point: In a Weekly story from 2004, Craig Flournoy’s investigative journalism students at SMU described how Dallas officials not only failed to stop the state’s worst illegal dump from ruining a majority-black neighborhood but actually played a pivotal role in keeping the dump open. Now the article will be used to teach city and county officials how to better enforce laws against such dumps. Veteran government planner John Ockels plans to use the article in his classes at the Texas Illegal Dumping Resource Center. He called it an “absolutely stunning example of city government complicity in criminal activity.”
So to Flournoy – who’s still doing great work with SMU students – and his former protégés, keep kicking ass and taking names. It makes a difference.
On the subjects of kind words and kicking ass, Static is long overdue in congratulating colleagues on their impressive haul at the Houston Press Club’s Lone Star Awards in June. The Weekly brought home more hardware than any other paper, including five first-place trophies. Among those honored were staffers Jimmy Fowler, Jeff Prince, Eric Griffey, Betty Brink, editor Gayle Reaves, and former intern Jesseca Bagherpour. In addition, Weekly intern-turned-freelancer Pablo Lastra – a former Flournoy student who worked on the dump story – took first in the student print reporting category, for a Weekly-published story he did as a University of North Texas grad student.