On February 3, East Palestine, Ohio was rocked by a train derailment carrying a host of toxic chemicals, leading to a five-day-long evacuation order for nearly 5,000 Ohio and Pennsylvania residents. Three days later, the rail operator triggered a controlled burn of the toxic chemicals to prevent an explosion and declared the operation a success.
But the fallout is far from over. There have been widespread reports of chickens and fish dying, new chemicals discovered, pets falling ill, and residents complaining of health complications. Unfortunately, the liberal broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) have completely moved on from the story.
MRC analysts looked at all broadcast coverage of the East Palestine train derailment between February 4 and February 14. Before the evacuation order was lifted on the evening of February 8, these three networks fell just shy of a combined 30 minutes on the topic. CBS led the pack with 593 seconds (9 min, 53 sec) of airtime, followed by ABC with 571 seconds (9 min, 31 sec) and NBC with 532 seconds (8 min, 52 sec).
However, once East Palestine residents were permitted to return home, the media’s interest in the story evaporated. ABC stopped covering it entirely. NBC gave the story just 38 additional seconds, and CBS was the only network to offer more than a minute of coverage (64 seconds) after the morning of February 8.
This sharp contrast in the data tells the story of an incurious media who were too eager to declare the issue resolved. Rather than healthy skepticism, reporters approached statements by Norfolk Southern and the Ohio EPA – both of whom had a blatant incentive to downplay the seriousness of the situation – with slavish credulity.
Perhaps this explains why they haven’t gone back to the story: because they abandoned it too early before asking any meaningful questions. For the broadcast networks to revisit East Palestine now would be to admit that their prior abandonment of it was an error born out of laziness and a lack of curiosity.
Unfortunately for East Palestine, their demographics and location in a red-tilting state like Ohio make them a wholly unappetizing topic for the corporate liberal media. According to the latest breakdown, East Palestine is 93.5 percent white, three percent Hispanic, and only 0.36 percent black.
But at least not all of the TV news media lost interest so quickly. Along with CNN, the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and NewsNation, even the taxpayer-funded leftists at PBS have had their priorities in order.
Monday’s NewsHour featured seven minutes with co-anchor Geoff Bennett explaining that the “ominous plumes of smoke” from the controlled explosion “has residents still concerned” as it “was carrying several toxic chemicals, including the used in plastic and paint manufacturing, including carcinogenic vinyl chloride.”
Bennett ran a series of clips from concerned residents, including Linda Murphy, who said she saw “several dead fish floating at multiple locations,” adding: “That is what we bathe in. That's what we drink. That's what we cook with. And they could not reassure me that the water was safe to drink.”
On February 8, NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert was arrested at a press conference for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R). Despite that incident, NewsNation has continued to diligently cover the situation.
Monday’s Rush Hour featured correspondent Megan Lee reporting from East Palestine that “a lot of residents have just came up to me and said, you know, we're just really worried” about their business, homes, and schools, questioning whether the schools were even “safe..to back to.”
Left unsaid from the coverage? The role of the Department of Transportation, which has purview over the nation’s rails. Another scandal, another absent Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He spoke Monday at the Center for American Progress about the future of transportation, but made no mention of East Palestine. Trains did come up.
While Buttigieg did find time to bemoan the supposed lack of diversity among railway workers, he left his concerns about East Palestine to a tweet saying he “continue[s] to be concerned about” its “impacts”.