Hydrofracking: Covering One of the Environment’s Hottest Energy Stories

 “Fracking,” as it’s called, is being heralded by natural gas developers as a way to cheaply deliver an abundance of energy. And it’s been one of the most extensively reported environmental issues recently. But is it the answer to our energy woes, or another danger to the environment? Are journalists doing a sufficient job covering the issue? As you read through this week’s articles, what comes to mind about the way various news outlets are tackling this issue? What role do images, personal stories and descriptive writing play in the way this issue is conveyed? Let’s hear the questions you have for fellow students on these pieces. This one provides a broad spectrum of views on hydrofracking. This one portrays the complex relationship between environmentalists and the natural gas industry. This piece provides a glimpse into Michigan’s fracking activity. This New York Times article was one of the first to explore fracking’s potential dangers on a wide scale. But it was Pro Publica that broke the story with this piece. The impact of its coverage is explained here. This video shows another way to communicate about environmental issues.

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About jhalpert

Julie Halpert is a freelance journalist with more than two decades of experience writing for national publications, including The New York Times, Newsweek, CNNMoney.com, iVillage, Fortune.com, and AARP Bulletin. She currently contributes regularly to over 25 publications. She is also the co-author of Making Up With Mom (http://www.makingupwithmom.com/) and has recently started blogging for The Huffington Post. Her subjects have focused on everything from how auto makers will reinvent themselves following bankruptcy, to the viability of various environmentally-friendly technologies and how boomers will reinvent retirement. She also covers parenting and family issues for such magazines as Parents, Family Circle, MORE and Redbook. She has reported on the air for many public radio programs, including The Environment Report, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She also co-teaches an environmental journalism class in the University of Michigan's Program in the Environment and was a founder of The Society of Environmental Journalists.

3 Responses to “Hydrofracking: Covering One of the Environment’s Hottest Energy Stories”

  1. jacquelinegamache Reply March 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    As I continued to read more about the subject, I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of coverage over why the environmental bill was passed in 2005 under Bush/Cheney’s reign taking away the EPA’s power to regulate hydraulic fracturing. All other underground fluid injection activities are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but for someone reason the process where toxic chemicals are combined with millions of gallons of water doesn’t need regulation, to be investigated or tested as being safe. Oh wait, that is because Halliburton invented the technology needed to frack and Cheney was once the CEO of the company, owns stock options and had the opportunity to earn more. Essentially this bill is the environmental appeal to the Glass Steagall act. Only this time, the bubble that will burst won’t be a man made and fictitious world of stocks, bonds, mortgages, credit or sub-prime loans. All of which can eventually be repaired. It will be the earth, the atmosphere, the water that is ruined and ruined for good.

    How is the Cheney/Halliburton connection not at the top of every store ever printed about fracking? I understand that there are many stories to be told about people’s deteriorating health and dead animals: all of which paint a horrid picture and set the scene for Erin Brockovich Part II. But when citizens show up to the polls and cast their vote, most don’t understand how incestuous these relationships and decisions are. Journalists have done so much of the leg work in investigating these stories. Why are they not spending more time talking about how voters can avoid these situaioons in the first place?

  2. This is an issue that illustrates the importance of data journalism and neutral reporting. When both sides have such drastically different stories, the numbers and reporting are being skewed somewhere and probably on both ends. Readers will eventually be turned off to the issue or choose a side on polarizing issues that prevents them from thinking and consuming information critically.

    Reporting and policy needs to be based on data and science. It is the journalists’ responsibility to make the information accessible but not to extrapolate their own interpretations. I hope that journalism will shift towards empirical reporting so citizens can be informed to make their own decisions instead of being bombarded with polarized opinions.

  3. Personally, I do not like the word fracking. It just seems too harsh of a word and too sensationalized, and I feel awkward saying it aloud. Clearly, fracking is a danger to the environment for the potential contamination it can cause to the land and the huge amount of water it requires. Reading through this week’s articles, I noticed that not many people are aware of what it is and the environmental impact it has on our planet. Compared to climate change, it’s severely underreported and before this class I had never even heard of it. I think news outlets need to do a better job of talking about it more so the public becomes more aware and can react and respond to it. Images, personal stories and descriptive writing can invoke emotions that make people want to do something about fracking and how it negatively affects the environment. For example, the image of the woman in an oxygen mask outside her home in the ProPublica story makes me angry that her air quality is so poor she cannot enjoy fresh air of the natural well by her home. The lede describing her collapsing also invokes this for me. This issue obviously has many stories similar to this, and they need to be told. Additionally, fracking needs to be safer.

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