Audit Notes: North Dakota Tea, WSJ Heds, AP Charge

This is good bread-and-butter business reporting by The Wall Street Journal. It reports on an oil boom unfolding in North Dakota, thanks to new technology that the industry has developed to exploit fields that were once too hard to get to.

The Bakken Shale could contain up to 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That would make it the biggest oil field discovered in the contiguous U.S. in more than 40 years—and many in the industry believe the amount of recoverable oil could be even greater as new technology allows companies to tap more of it…

Production has grown so rapidly here, 100 miles south of the Canadian border, that companies had to build a rail line to transport their oil to market, since there wasn’t a big enough pipeline in the state to handle the oil. Companies have scrambled to find labor in a state with fewer than a million people, and to keep drilling rigs running when the wind chill pushes temperatures to 50 degrees below zero. Booming Bakken oil production has helped North Dakota escape the worst of the economic downturn. The state’s unemployment rate was 4.3% in December—more than five percentage points below the national level—and the state government projects a surplus for the current budget cycle.

Hey, some good news, America!

Felix Salmon takes the Journal to task for its creeping front-page sensationalism, something we and he have noticed before, too. The paper’s headline says “Hedge Funds Pound Euro” and emphasizes a meeting between big hedge funds to discuss investing ideas, including, um, pounding the euro. But, as Salmon points out:

There’s only the vaguest hint, in the ostensibly-sober WSJ, that it’s ridiculous to think that hedge funds could cause a large medium-term change in the value of the euro against the dollar. They can certainly bet on such a move, and make money if it happens, but you can’t manipulate the largest currency pair in the world, when it’s freely floating and does over a trillion dollars in volume per day.

The thing with this story and its headline is that the piece details how the euro started falling in December, continued to fall in January—all well before the hedge-fund dinner, which happened less than three weeks ago. Indeed, since the meeting the euro’s rate of decline against the dollar has eased. So “Hedge Funds Pound Euro” just doesn’t make sense when juxtaposed with the February 8 meeting. But hey, it’s above the fold and I’m sure helps sell newsstand copies, so who cares if it’s accurate?

The Associated Press will charge for some of its news on the iPad. Why that’s different than a laptop, say, is beyond me. And they’ve hired anthropologists to help them figure this out:

AP has been using teams of anthropologists for the past three years to help guide its efforts. That research, he says, “convinced us that adding to the information overload of the Internet is no longer a business model, if it ever were one.” Instead, AP is looking for a “two-way relationship” with consumers using Twitter, Facebook and other methods.

I must say, I read a few pieces about this and still have no idea what the AP is talking about.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.