H’burg Patriot-News Steps Up with the Facts on Hydraulic Fracturing

Ever notice how some of the best news pieces out there on the Marcellus Shale also happen to be among the longest in form and most detailed in their presentation?

If you’ve had a chance to read Bryan Walsh’s balanced account of shale development in TIME Magazine last month (as a companion to EID’s quick fact-check) or Mike Soraghan’s 4,800-word take-down of Gasland in The New York Times (of all places) in Feb., you’ve seen firsthand how good, thorough, well-sourced reporting oftentimes produces final stories that turn out to be less-than-favorable from the opposition’s point of view.

So why do you think that is? Can it be that every single long-form writer in America is currently being paid in secret by the oil and natural gas industry? Or could it be a function of the fact that longer articles allow the reporter to lay out a volume and quality of facts, science and context that you don’t come across all that often in blog blasts on the Huffington Post or 450-word unsigned editorials on the back page of the newspaper?

Whatever the answer, a report published today in the Harrisburg Patriot-News by journalist Donald Gilliland continues a trend we’ve seen evolve over the past two years – namely, that when reporters are given the time and space to do a genuine “deep dive” on issues related to shale and fracturing technology, they return to the surface with an account of the process that looks almost nothing like the narrative being advanced by professionals on the other side. Gilliland’s rebuke of Gasland is especially trenchant, referring to the movie as an example of “great emotional filmmaking and absolutely rotten science.”

Of course, if your main sources of news on the Marcellus continue to be wing-ding press releases and 140-characters-or-less broadsides on Twitter, you probably wouldn’t know, for instance, that natural gas originating from the Marcellus Shale formation has never once been found in underground drinking water supplies thousands of feet above. You also wouldn’t know that the “iconic image from ‘Gasland’ [of] people lighting their tap water on fire … has nothing to do with fracking.” But it doesn’t, which Colorado regulators have testified to time and time again.

Plenty of other things here in the Gilliland piece worth highlighting – but hopefully you’ll have the time to take a look at the 2,000-word story for yourself. Definitely worth your time, especially considering how much of it you likely spent on Twitter today — are we right?

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