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2013 Atlantic Journalism Awards Finalists


Date Aired or Published Saturday, November 9, 2013
Media outlet where first aired or published: The Chronicle Herald
Name of Program: Business section
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Nova Scotia
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio):

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

Nova Scotia is on the cusp of a potential shale gas boom. The size of the province’s onshore oil and gas reserves could be a game changer. But accessing hard-to-reach hydrocarbons deep in shale rock requires a controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing. For this story, I wanted to give readers an unbiased look at both the potential of shale gas and oil and the risks associated with fracking. It’s a topic that has been gaining momentum in the media for years, but coverage is often superficial. Reporters cover a shale gas protest or interview the head of a resource firm, but reporting rarely delves deeper than this. I set out to examine the background of hydraulic fracking and how the technique works. I interviewed engineers and geologists with big resource firms eyeing Nova Scotia’s resources. I also talked with environmentalists, academics and government leaders concerned with the responsible development of the province’s resources. What emerged was a complex tale pitting resource extraction and economic development against environmental preservation, native rights and the province’s future.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

I knew this would be a complicated story to write. It required a tremendous amount of research to learn how the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing works. I then tracked down several sources on both sides of the debate, and spent hours getting a better understanding of the issue. I went for coffee, chatted in boardrooms and talked on the phone for hours about the pros and cons of shale gas development. I asked my editor for more time. Although I did a lot of research and legwork ahead of time, I ended up having just over three days to complete the interviews and write the story. Because fracking is such a complicated topic, I suggested we run an infographic with the story instead of a photo. The Chronicle Herald’s talented graphic artist Matthew Dempsey developed an interesting illustration of a hydraulically fracked well. The final product was a thought-provoking piece that contributed to the province’s debate about fracking.

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