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WSJ reporter finds balance to depict an economic boom

oil and gas boomDuring a trip to the Eagle Ford oilfield in Texas, Russell Gold of  The Wall Street Journal saw the large number of RVs housing workers, which made him wonder how the energy boom’s benefits affected the U.S. economy. He writes:

“The economic benefits of rising energy production are spreading far beyond the traditional oil patch, to Ohio and Pennsylvania, Nebraska and New York, North Carolina and Idaho. Truck drivers from pretty much anywhere can find work related to the surging energy business. Private-equity firms completed $24.8 billion of energy deals of all types last year, up from $8.5 billion in 2010, according to data tracker Preqin. Manufacturing plants are returning to the U.S. to take advantage of cheap natural gas, spurring major investments in petrochemical and steel production in the Gulf Coast and Midwest.”

Today’s Tip: Complicated stories require balance, data and anecdotes.  

“The energy boom is an important story with economic, political and even social impacts on the country,” Russell says. “It’s very difficult to wrap your arms around and try to give readers a sense the impact is having without coming across as a cheerleader.”

russell gold

Russell Gold

To do that, this story needed to say more than just “people are being hired,” Russell says. Job numbers needed to be balanced with the industrial process that’s spreading, the economic optimism it has created as well as questions being raised about the environmental impacts.

The story also needed data. Russell says many of the reports he found didn’t cover both oil and gas. He created own database by searching Bureau of Labor Statistics data using North American Industry Classification System fields economists recommended.

The story also needed to show the unexpected ways the supply chains stretched to oilfields, Russell says. He found an Idaho company building manufacturing homes for an oilfield in North Dakota. He takes readers there in his lede:

“The staccato of nail guns echoes across a cavernous building here as workers piece together manufactured houses with easy-to-clean linoleum floors and rugged interiors for muddy oil-field workers.

There is no oil and gas production in Idaho, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. energy boom has bypassed this bedroom community west of Boise.”

 

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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