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The pursuit of Arctic drilling: How one reporter got the story

deep sea drillingJennifer Dlouhy, who covers energy policy for the Houston Chronicle and other Hearst Newspapers, endured delayed and missed flights, and northern Alaska temperatures for her series on Shell Oil Co.’s pursuit of Arctic drilling. She writes the Arctic is a “forbidding frontier, where the cold locks up machines and blankets of fog sometime keep planes out of the sky for days at a time.”

In part one, she takes readers aboard a drillship to see the harsh and unpredictable weather conditions that hinder drilling. In part two, she writes that finding oil is just the beginning. The company would still need to develop a system to get it to refineries.

Jennifer Dlouhy

“On the rig and on the ground, I got a real sense of some of the major logistical challenges facing Shell in its 2012 Arctic-drilling program, as well as the obstacles facing other oil companies who plan their own exploration in the region,” Jennifer says. “Being there in person made a difference in learning the facts. Being there in person also meant that I got a real sense of the environment in which Shell has been working; I could describe the cold, the snow, the remoteness and the ice from personal experience.”

Being there also allowed her to talk with area residents about how offshore drilling affects their lives, she says. “I heard amazing tales of whale hunting and village celebrations that I could never have gotten on a phone,” she says.

Jennifer, who covered legal affairs and Congress before shifting to energy, says the biggest challenges were the companies’ time and access constraints.

“Congress can be far more forthcoming than businesses, and a challenge with which I still struggle is how to penetrate the corporate culture and get to real stories,” she says. “But I do think there’s tremendous value in spending time with the real people affected by corporate and government decision-making.”

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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