Company halts oil drilling: so what?

http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/09/west_bay_exec_scio_township_oi.html

While this news article was informative and definitely full of newsy aspects, I found it to be a bit dry. There was no nut graph to bring a sense of urgency to the issue. The company stopped drilling because this one well they were investigating was found to be dry. So what? It seems that there is much more to be written about the resistance from the local community and tying that to the national resistance would make the article even stronger. What I took from the story was that this company that drills and harms the environment drilled, even though there was some resistance, came up empty, and no they’re done. End of story. There are probably so many more layers to this story that the article could have focused on. The kicker was also weak. I thought that the quote at the end made the issue at hand seem so blasé that this company drilled, couldn’t find anything, and are now moving on. It further reduced the article’s sense of urgency (that already didn’t exist) and really didn’t add much to it. Overall I felt this article was simply reporting what had happened in very simple terms, with no sense of urgency.

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7 Responses to “Company halts oil drilling: so what?”

  1. Reading through this story, I came across a few things that made me think about my own news feature and things that shouldn’t be done in news-writing.

    For example, this quote: “The site will look the way it did before we showed up in about two to three weeks,” is never clarified. What did the site look like before all the oil was gone? It would have been nice to have some descriptions, images, or at least some type of follow-up regarding this quote. The reader is left wondering what the area looked like prior to this significant event, and left wondering why this event actually is significant. I think that this quote needs more context.

    The author of this article uses many different sources that don’t seem to relate to each other. Or, at least, the author doesn’t explain how they do relate to each other. There is this quote, relating to the well being dry: “This is fantastic that they’re saying the well came up dry.” Followed by: “Gibson said that it’s always disappointing to dig a dry well, but that seismic testing is still an extremely inexact science.” I am now confused as to what the article is actually trying to talk about, or what the point of the article actually is here. Is the situation good? Is the situation bad? If it’s both, why is it both?

    I would agree with you that this article definitely falls flat. It struggled to keep my attention even though I do think that this topic is a particularly interesting one. I wish that the article gave more context / background about the issue of oil drilling and had a stronger sense of urgency, like you said.

  2. I am very annoyed by the article because as far as I can tell, it never explains what the MDEQ is! Besides that, I do agree that this article is quite dry and that there doesn’t seem to be a reason for me to care about it that much since the well is dry. I think the more interesting story was about court case that is continuing on despite the drill well since they are trying to change who has jurisdiction over the mining rights.

  3. I agree with John that article was dry. I found myself easily getting distracted and wanting to skip over words while reading this short article. The article did get quotes from both sides, the oil company and local groups opposed to oil drilling which was good. I thought the one quote “This is fantastic that they’re saying the well came up dry” might have been a good lede because it would get my attention to keep reading. I also like their kicker…”In this business there’s about a 10 percent success rate for wildcat wells. So failures are not really such a big surprise to us.” It makes me think the author was a little biased toward oil drilling because it leaves the reader thinking that drilling and disrupting the soil and bedrock is not worth the 10% chance of oil.

  4. So I agree with a lot of what was said about the structure of the article in the previous comments, but what was striking to me in a similar note was the accompanying image. It kind of connotes the author’s tone of the article similarly:

    -The image is a wide shot giving a sense of place, but is a pretty straight forward shot (similar to how the article is written — without a real angle).
    -There’s so few people in this image that it makes it look like the issue isn’t a community issue, whereas the article hints that it is more of a community issue (but again, the article fails to really delve into that issue, skimming a surface).
    -Why is the woman waving? I imagine she’s waving to on passing cars, but it’s ambiguous and not in a way that makes you think. It’s rather distracting and takes away from the impact of the image.
    -The image has all of the general elements of the story — some people, the oil drill site, Scio — but there’s no emotion or immediacy to it. It’s too general of a snap shot and that’s what the article ultimately reflects.

    Some thoughts on what the photographer and writer could have done:

    -Go deeper in the story; find characters to follow. Who are the people pictured here (their names aren’t even listed)? What are their stories? How are their lives affected by this issue?
    -Wait for a moment that has more emotion rather than a casual wave that detracts away from the photograph.
    -Take a wide angle lens and get really close to these people. Distort them and potentially use them as blurred foreground to the background of the community and the oil drilling. There seems to be a lot of potential to show the juxtaposition of the oil drilling technology with the rural and relatively unscathed community of Scio in the behind the oil mine.
    -Find some characters to follow (for a further photo essay) — protesters, oil drillers, legislators. They all have their own story of how they ended up there and their own perspective, even if it’s the “bystander.”

  5. I think that the issue with this article is that didn’t use COFBY as the protagonist. While the event wasn’t very dramatic, they could have used COFBY’s take on the issue and their happiness over the cancelation as an in to make people feel motivated to read. We could have come to understand their point of view, what they had fought for, and why the cancellation was important to them. It also would have been a good way to talk about what would have happened if the project wouldn’t have been canceled. What would the consequences be? Who would be harmed most. I think that this is an example in which the news was trying too hard to be unbiassed. Because the issue at hand is controversial, they were trying to remain neutral, but by being neutral, they ended up just being dry. It’s the human perspective that really makes stories interesting. We must see what is at stake for people based on what happens and not just what happens.

  6. There was not very much detailed information here in tis article. I was not very drawn to this article and it took a lot to keep my attention. There could have been more information on the people that the actually were effected by the oil drilling in there community also more research on the environmental effects of what would be occurring in the backyards of these people’s homes. This article could have been more dramatic or enthusiastic because it only seemed bland. What could have been a very important and informative article really made the subject boring and uninteresting.

  7. Hello all!
    I will explain more when I come in to speak to your class, but I’d like to address a couple of your critiques here on the blog first. I want to thank you all first and foremost for reading my story and looking at it with a critical eye.
    I think the primary issue here is that most of you seem to be viewing this article in a vacuum and likely did not click on any of the links in the article or the ones next to it in the story package that provided background detail and the answers to many of the questions you posed.

    Kirho: I don’t know your background, but you likely don’t live in Scio Township or the immediate area surrounding the well. If you did, this graf: “Company vice president Pat Gibson said Thursday morning that the well at the corner of West Delhi and Miller Roads will be plugged and not used for oil or gas production.” Would have been a nut graf that grabbed your attention. A key to writing is knowing your audience, and my audience as a reporter for The Ann Arbor News is first and foremost residents of the Ann Arbor area. While this was happening, that was an extremely important piece of information. Also, there’s a danger in providing a ‘sense of urgency’ to things that maybe don’t have one. In this case, I had been following this story for months, and the news at this point was that the drilling would not continue. Had you looked back at the linked articles you would have seen extensive reporting on the local resistance (less on the national, again, audience). While I certainly could have included more in this particular article, writing for the web allows us to use links so that we don’t have to provide background that is as extensive as we may have had to in the days of straight print reporting.

    Heathercnet: You seem to think that the role of the reporter is to pass judgement as to whether something is “good” or “bad.” While that is sometimes true, in this case I saw my role as more impartial observer. The two quotes you singled out, one from Gibson (an oil company executive) and one from Robinson (who leads the COFBY group that opposed the well) are indeed contradictory, though that makes sense given their respective positions. I’m not sure how you would have made their relationship to the situation any more clear, though I would be welcome to hearing suggestions. Also, I love that you would like more imagery here. It is definitely something I could have added and something I will keep in mind as I continue my reporting on these types of issues. I will say that it is important to remember that not every news story is a feature.

    Jythree: fair point that I did not properly write out MDEQ in this article before using its acronym. This was probably the 30th or so article I had written on this topic but that needs to happen every time and I failed to do that here. I recommend you look at some of the articles linked in the story (or click on “all stories”) in the story package to see some of the “jucier” stuff.

    Joseph Xu: I worked with a photographer who took the photo and did not take it myself. It was from a story about a protest in front of the oil rig. I thought it captured both the rig and the protests in a way that “summed up” the story. You can see a full gallery of photos of the protesters and a story about them here (though I will note this story was also linked to in the original): http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/09/west_bay_finishes_drilling_as.html.

    jlstroud: Reading the full scope of coverage would have given you a better idea of who COFBY was (certainly a main character, if not a protagonist) in the story. I try not to assign “protagonist” or “antagonist” roles in stories unless there is clearly a real harm being done to a certain party. In this case, COFBY had very real concerns, but the oil company also had a very real legal right to do what they were doing and I saw very little evidence that they were committing any sort of gross violation of people’s rights or freedoms. I tried to get both sides of the story into as many articles as possible and give them both a platform to make their points heard. Sometimes dry is better than biased (or worse, wrong).

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