The Dernogalizer

January 13, 2010

Media and Messaging: The Multiplier Effect

Cross-posted at: Itsgettinghotinhere

Who said anything about qualifications?

I never thought I’d be writing a piece on media and messaging. I’m a government major at the University of Maryland going into my final semester as an undergraduate. I’m looking to further my education with a masters in public policy with a specialization in environmental policy. In the student activist group UMD for Clean Energy that I’ve been involved in since the spring semester of 2007, I’ve been the boots on the ground guy getting petition signatures and power vote pledges, the Political Liaison who handled the policy aspects of the campaign like organizing lobby meetings, and last fall I had my first stint as the Campaign Director for the group. Despite my responsibility never being media and messaging, it’s in this area that I feel I’ve learned some of the most valuable organizing lessons.

When applied to our group’s efforts last semester, our new approach to media became one of the most powerful engines for our local campaign on making green issues front and center in our College Park City Council elections, and complimented all of the other aspects of our campaign beautifully. At the end of the semester, core members of UMD for Clean Energy tried to put our finger on how and why media had been invaluable to our campaign, but usually our guesses didn’t go beyond “wow”. This is my imperfect yet necessary attempt to explain what happened, with the hope that other groups can gain from it, and at least so I can convey how important this aspect of the youth climate movement is. By the way, I’ve committed the cardinal sin of making this a longggg post, but it’s worth it so please read.

“This was a lot more efficient than knocking on 20,000 doors” (more…)

July 23, 2009

Burned by the Press

Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 2:32 pm
Tags: , ,

I have a column out today criticizing the media’s coverage of global warming as being so poor that too many people don’t have accurate information, or any information at all about global warming or global warming legislation.  Sources are below the column.

The media: Problems of the news re-cycle


On June 16 the White House released the “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” report. It was written by 13 government science agencies, compiled largely during the George W. Bush administration, and completed under President Barack Obama. The report lays out the specific devastating regional impacts a warming climate would have on all regions of the country, along with the current effects of greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere. The take-away message is the country would become a hellhole if there are not drastic reductions in emissions.

If a tree falls in a forest and the media aren’t around to hear it, does it make a sound? You probably didn’t hear about the report, but one story that did get a lot of press last month was how the Environmental Protection Agency suppressed an internal report that questioned the legitimacy of man-made global warming. I’m not surprised Fox News ran with the story without doing the slightest bit of investigative journalism. Even more disgraceful is how other members of the mainstream media followed suit: For example, CBS reported “EPA May Have Suppressed Report Skeptical of Global Warming”. 

Any respectable journalist could recognize the “report” is nothing more than comments on the EPA’s endangerment finding greenhouse gas emissions should be regulated under the Clean Air Act, comments proposed by an economist named Alan Carlin. Not a report, and not a scientist making the comment. Strikes one and two. Strike three is that the references Carlin used for this “report” consist of recycled global warming denial talking points from blogs. Heck, one was even copied and pasted nearly word-for-word from a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute.

Want another example of missed coverage? Think back to when Michael Jackson died. It was a day before major global warming legislation was getting voted on in Washington. Opponents were frustrated, since no one knew the House was busy passing legislation that would reorganize and replace the entire energy infrastructure of the country in a few decades. Proponents were in disbelief that the most important piece of legislation in a long time barely got a whisper.

Want more botched coverage? Try Rice University, which released a paper in Nature Geoscience about how climate models can’t explain all the heating indicated in the geologic record during a major climactic shift 55 million years ago. The message to take from the paper was “we could be underestimating how hot the Earth will get.” The headline by USA Today read “Could we be wrong about global warming?” Ladies and gentlemen, your mainstream media. 

This isn’t to say that all media outlets are to blame, or that every single story about global warming is done terribly. But properly reported articles are like needles in a haystack. The truth is that far too many stories on global warming have been missed or dismissed. Most that get covered are grossly misrepresented, and make up a 30 second “he said, she said” soundbite or a paragraph buried on page A20. Fair and balanced has become more important than truthful and objective. I’m sorry to say the end result may be ink tainted with blood. We’ve all been burned by the press. 

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at (on CBS messing up story) (CBS’s story) (the Global Impacts Report) (the Global Impacts Report) (Fox News reporting on EPA) (EPA report copying Pat Michaels) (more debunking of EPA “report”) (more debunking of EPA report) (Pat Michaels of the Cato Institute) (Rice University mistake) (USA today’s bad headline)

May 14, 2009

More Hillock Coverage


Im the guy in the middle

I'm the guy in the middle

There’s already been plenty of media coverage involving the Wooded Hillock issue on the University of Maryland campus.  There was another article in the Prince Georges County Gazette today, and I was fortunate enough to be in the picture the photographer took.  I’m going to post the article below.  Just to give an insider’s update, the current issue is still that the university is open to considering other sites, but right now they are moving forward as if they’re going to develop the Hillock.  I have a feel that will change considering the Prince George’s County Council is going to have a thing or two to say regarding the Hillock before they approve the East Campus development.  If you look at the first link I provided, you’ll find a way to contact the council and influence their decision.  A welcome shift in stance would be the university to start looking for an alternate location site on their own, rather than passing the buck to students that are trying to hold them accountable, but don’t have anywheres near the resources available to do a thorough analysis of alternite sites that the university would seriously consider.


Students to meet with UM officials over East Campus debate

School, critics clash over plan to bulldoze nine acres

by David Hill | Staff Writer

Administration officials at the University of Maryland, College Park will meet Wednesday with students concerning the school’s controversial plan to remove nine acres of on-campus forest to make room for its East Campus project.

The university is scheduled to level nine acres of a 22-acre wooded hillock behind Comcast Center to clear space for mailing and vehicle maintenance facilities that will be displaced by the $900 million project, which will bring housing and retail shops to the area on Route 1, across from the campus’ main entrance.

Students, faculty and environmental groups have criticized the move, calling it contradictory to the university’s environmentally-friendly image. On Friday, about 25 students and faculty picketed an on-campus ceremony honoring the school as an arboretum and botanical garden.

“The university’s really being two-faced,” said Phil Hannam, a 22-year-old senior at the school. “Making a statement like that publicly but then in our own backyard chopping down one of the last remaining spots of forest on campus.”

Three of the students who led the protest, Davey Rogner, Joanna Calabrese and Hannam, two days earlier declined to attend a May 6 meeting with Ann Wylie, the university’s vice president of administrative affairs. The three said they sent her a letter on May 1 voicing their concerns but received no reply.

“We wanted to get a response from them before we went,” said Calabrese, 21, senior vice president of the school’s Student Government Association.

University officials defended the plan, saying they appointed a committee that carefully considered 12 sites from 2005 to 2007 before choosing the hillock, which they said offered the best combination of cost, proximity to campus, low visibility and minimal environmental impact.

“What we have done is try to balance a number of very difficult issues and come up with an optimum solution,” said Frank Brewer, the school’s associate vice president of facilities management.

Some critics argued that the university made its decision with little to no student or faculty input and should re-open the selection process, which they believe was incomplete and too heavily driven by cost.

“I think they need to find an alternative to that site … my suggestion is they find a parking lot on which to build those facilities,” said Jack Sullivan, a professor of landscape architecture at the university who attended the May 6 meeting and Friday’s protest.

When Rogner and Calabrese spoke before the College Park City Council April 28, they proposed a series of compromises that the university could make if it chooses to proceed in bulldozing the hillock. These included restoring 18 acres of forest elsewhere in Prince George’s County, improving water quality in on-campus creeks and protecting the remaining 13 acres of wooded hillock.

Wylie said that while she is “doubtful” that a new site will ultimately be selected, she is still inviting the plan’s critics to offer alternate solutions.

“I’m not going to close the door,” Wylie said. “They have to find something this committee did not find.”

E-mail David Hill at

April 16, 2009

Great Green Jobs Ad

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:52 am
Tags: , ,

The Environmental Defense Action Fund, the United Steelworkers, and the Blue-Green Alliance have started a new website called the cap solution.  The main idea behind this campaign is to deliver the message to the American people that regulating and capping carbon is good for the economy.  Businesses are saying this, not just environmentalists.  This ad is being shown because the climate bill is being heavily debated in Washington, and in a little over a month, the noise will be deafening.  Expect to see a lot more ads like this, but also some dishonest ones like this from the polluters.  Enjoy the video below.

April 13, 2009

Letters for Climate Bill

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 5:52 pm
Tags: , , ,

Occassionally, I like to do more than just blog about environmental and energy issues, but also give citizens an opportunity to weigh in on them and get involved. I’ve blogged some already about the national climate bill released by Congressmen Ed Markey and Henry Waxman, which you can read about here

But if you’re supportive of a strong climate bill and you want to see one passed, what can you do? Well for one, calling your Congressman and Senators and telling them what you want is important. However, letting the public know through the media that there is a climate bill and that it needs to be strong is crucual. My student group is working on sending letters to our local media outlets about what we like about the bill, and what needs improving. Below are the talking points we are using which you are free to take as well in writing your letters.

Letter to the Editor Talking Points

1.   A bill called The America Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 has recently been introduced to Congress to address the issue of global warming while at the same time investing in green technologies to create economic growth.

2.  This climate bill will be voted on this summer, and will be out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee by the end of May.  This is our chance to weigh in.

3.  Come tell Congressman Steny Hoyer that you want a strong climate bill at a Clean Energy Town Hall happening May 11 6:30-8:00 pm.  It will be at the University of Maryland in the Baltimore Room of the Stamp Student Union.  ***Must Mention***

4.  Steny Hoyer is the House Majority leader, making him one of the most powerful and influential politicians in the country

5.  The current bill has some good provisions.  It invests heavily in job creation from renewable energy technologies, and in money saving provisions such as energy efficiency.

6.  America has an opportunity to tackle the economic recession and global warming in one bill by investing in renewable technologies, the fastest growing market in the world today.

7.  The bill’s long-term targets are fairly strong, but the short term targets need to be stronger.  If we don’t have a strong short term commitment, the long-term is largely irrelevant.

8.  The current bill Congressmen Ed Markey and Henry Waxman have introduced has a short term carbon emissions reductions target of 20% below 2005 levels by 2020.  This target needs to be stronger.  The science calls for at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.

9.  It’s crucial to get a climate change bill passed before international negotiations for the next global climate treaty come to a close in Copenhagen Denmark at the end of the year.

10.  Any serious climate change bill must prohibit the construction of new coal fired power plants.

11.  Clean coal is a false solution that doesn’t exist, and the bill should not commit our tax dollars to it.  Instead, we should invest heavily in job creating renewable energy technologies, advanced automobiles and energy efficiency.

12.  This climate bill has too many carbon offsets.  Carbon offsets undercut our genuine efforts to reduce emissions by allowing us to pay someone else to go green for us.  They do not work.

Tips: In letter include your name, phone number, and city/state/zip, and keep letter under 250 words, and send to multiple outlets.

Media Outlets:,,,,,,,

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