Investigative Post: Why Did ...


Associated Press

Take a look at the following Associated Press article that appeared last week:

SCE&G to donate to renewable energy program

By: The Associated Press 04/25/11 6:08 PM

South Carolina’s largest investor-owned utility says it will donate $1 for every Facebook “like” that the Palmetto Clean Energy organization gets through the end of the month.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. said in a news release Monday that it will contribute up to $2,500 to the nonprofit group that is a collaborative effort among Duke Energy Carolinas, Progress Energy Carolinas and SCE&G. The power companies’ customers can donate to the organization as well.

Palmetto Clean Energy encourages the development of renewable energy resources and pays a premium to generators of that energy. The organization is currently buying electricity from about two dozen solar energy producers in South Carolina and has a contract to purchase electricity generated from biomass.

In a word, “really?”

Donating a buck for every “FB like” to a charity with a cap of $2,500 doesn’t exactly strike me as a big deal.

So why did the AP write this story?

Given it’s been over year since our last investigative post, “Journal Prints Lame Name-calling Article,” we decided to probe for answers.

To get to the heart of the matter, we contacted Page Ivey, the reporter in the AP’s Columbia, South Carolina bureau who wrote the SCE&G story with the following conversation starter:

From the AP perspective, was the story angle in an electric utility (traditional) using Facebook (nontraditional) to promote an activity?

Page graciously responded, but explained that the AP rarely shares internal discussions related to news judgment (touch of irony in this response, a story for another day).

Undeterred, we figured a look at the news release referenced in the AP story might be revealing.

No such luck.

As a result, we’re left to make a few uneducated guesses:

  • It could be that donating based on “FB likes” reflects a trailblazing action in the energy sector.
  • The PR team at SCE&G sold the story with irresistible passion.
  • Given SCE&G’s clout in South Carolina, the local AP bureau feels obligated to cover the small stuff to ensure access to major stories.
  • It was an incredibly slow news day in South Carolina on April 25.
  • Somehow, Oliver Stone fits into the picture.

Again, these are guesses.

Like many things in life, this one will remain a mystery … unless a new source (off-the-record works) surfaces.

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