Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Five tips for covering energy

July 6, 2015

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Advances in technology have bolstered energy production in the United States. That means there are a number of topics to cover that make for perfect money stories. Here are our five tips for reporting on energy and money:

1. Follow the energy revolution.

New techniques have revolutionized energy and oil production in the United States, specifically deep-water drilling and hydraulic fracturing. If these things are happening in your coverage area, figure out what effect it is having. Fiscally, local governments are getting more tax revenue as well as improving economically thanks to increased production. Watch out for its local effect on the environment as well.

2. Know the local infrastructure.

Wherever you are in the country, it is like that you’re close to a refining hub. Not only will it affect your local economy, but also any major incidents or changes can have national consequences. Local power providers could affect almost every one of your readers, so it’s a good idea to know them well.

3. Follow the big picture with mining.

If you’re in a state with a lot of mining, like Arizona, Kentucky or West Virginia, follow the big picture stories. What’s going on with copper prices? How has the demand for coal changed? These things mean a lot to local fortunes.

4. Develop relationships in the industries.

Refineries, energy companies, utilities and pipeline operators have local spokespeople. Know who they are and get to know them. Have them show you around the facilities if they can. Access to these people helps get information out more quickly when crisis breaks.

5. Be prepared for scientific controversy.

Covering energy means you’ll have to wade through scientific arguments from both companies and academic environmentalists. Writing authoritatively on these topics means you’ll have to do a lot of in depth and fair reporting. You need to be prepared and comfortable talking to a variety of people with different viewpoints.

Want more? Download our “Guide to Business Beat Basics” for tips on covering money in energy and other beats.

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