Elsewhere, the reaction to coverage has been equally “frack”-tious (pun intended). On Saturday, bloggers chastised The Wall Street Journal for removing an unusual quote from an article about the gas industry’s displeasure that the film Gasland, which criticized the destructive nature of drilling, had been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary (it failed to win the Oscar on Sunday night). The original version of the article quoted a spokesman for Range Resources-Appalachia, a natural gas company, saying, “We have to stop blaming documentaries [for public concerns about drilling] and take a look in the mirror.” The quote quickly disappeared, however, although Josh Fox, Gasland’s director, posted a screenshot of the comment on the film’s Facebook page.
The online news site Press Action contacted the Journal article’s author, Ben Casselman, on February 26 to ask about the deletion:
In an e-mail response, Casselman wrote: “As a matter of policy, the Journal doesn’t discuss its editorial decisions, so I can’t get into details. But stories are edited all the time between editions, for all sorts of reasons (space, clarity, etc.). So it’s not unusual for the early versions of a story to look different from the final version.”
Casselman is right, of course. Articles can pass through multiple iterations online, which are often quite different from one another. But that doesn’t answer the entirely valid question about why the Journal nixed the quote from Range Resource’s spokesman.
Whatever the case, the incident is further evidence that coverage of the natural gas boom and hydraulic fracturing is taking place within a fraught environment—one in which reporters must think carefully about the facts and the tone presented in their articles, and be prepared to explain or defend them.