Looking Critically at Our Own Solyndra Coverage

NBC Bay Area examines its own coverage, lands in the middle.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Governor's Press Office
    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the first big politico to stop off at Solyndra. President Obama followed in 2010. The solar company announced its bankruptcy in August 2011.

    The Department of Energy this morning sent reporters throughout the United States a list of articles that gave Solyndra positive coverage in the years 2008-2010 as a way of showing that its loan program officers were not the only ones who thought the Fremont company was stellar.

    We decided to look back at our own coverage of Solyndra. Full disclosure: our archival computer systems are disappointing sometimes. But cross referencing several databases, we found NBC Bay Area covered the company 15 times between the dates 2008 and today, not including the bankruptcy and FBI raids.

    It should be noted each mention counts in our total -- television news often repeats coverage during the day. For instance, a news item in the 5pm news is often replayed in the 6pm news.

    Coverage generally centered around politicians' visits, first Governor Schwarzenegger and then President Obama.

    Most coverage was simply factual, like this from October 28, 2009 (verbatim):

     

    Solyndra today says it signed a deal to rent 506,000 square feet for a facility in Fremont -- he second recent expansion announced by the solar-panel maker. Solyndra recently launched a new facility, also in Fremont, that is expected to create thousands of jobs.

     

    During President Obama's visit, we were quick to point out the political advantages for the President.

    "PRESIDENT OBAMA, HOWEVER, WASN'T IN FREMONT TODAY TO JUST DO SOMETHING NICE FOR ONE BAY AREA COMPANY AND IT'S (sic) EMPLOYEES.
    THAT COMPANY IS DOING SOMETHING FOR THE ADMINISTRATION.
    AND, SO, JUST AFTER TEN THIS MORNING, THE PRESIDENT TOOK TO STAGE INSIDE THE STILL-UNDER-CONSTRUCTION BUILDING ... TO EXPLAIN WHAT THAT WAS.
    BECAUSE THAT EXPANSION WAS THANKS TO A FEDERAL PROGRAM ... PRESIDENT OBAMA CAN CALL THE THREE THOUSAND CONSTRUCTION JOBS EVIDENCE GOVERNMENT STIMULUS IS WORKING.
    NOT TO MENTION, THE FACT IT IS A GREEN TECH FACILITY AS WELL ... THE ADMINISTRATION GETS ENVIRONMENTAL CREDIT AS WELL."

    We found two instances where we were mildly critical. In one report, dated May 26, 2010, we quote a Fremont Tea Party official who thought the government should not give Solyndra a loan.

    "i see the government as an entity to protect us. to protect our borders, to build roads and bridges, but private enterprise should be left to private enterprise." said John Guerroro.

    And in a story from the day earlier, we point to the San Francisco Natural Herb company next door to Solyndra, suggesting Obama stop by and visit a traditional company that has been manufacturing in the "tried and true" method.