Saturday, July 16, 2011

NYT Public Editor weighs in on Ian Urbina’s NYT article

Clashing Views on the Future of Natural Gas
Published: July 16, 2011
A NEW YORK TIMES article last month, “Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush,” warned across two columns at the top of the front page that high expectations for companies drilling shale gas might be headed for a fall. It was the kind of story you wish The Times had written about Enron before it collapsed. Or about Bernard Madoff.
The June 26 article, written by Ian Urbina, was clearly intended to offer that kind of signal and specifically invoked “Enron,” “Ponzi schemes” and “dot-coms” in the early paragraphs.
Raising the prospect of a fall, though, is a journalistic gamble. Adding to the risk, the story painted its subject with an overly broad brush and didn’t include dissenting views from experts who aren’t entrenched on one side or another of the subject. After publication, critics jumped in with both feet.
A UBS investment analyst, William A. Featherston, and colleagues issued a report saying that the article, part of The Times’s continuing “Drilling Down” series on shale gas, was “unduly harsh,” failed to recognize the “enormous” growth of shale gas in recent years and offered no “credible source and context.”

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