MDN is Called Out by the Huffington Post [Free Access]

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao - Called OutHey, it’s not every day you get prominently mentioned in a Huffington Post article, so we thought we would bring it to your attention: A ‘War on Shale Gas’?

MDN editor Jim Willis has long admired the HuffPo and its founder Arianna Huffington. Certainly not for her (or its) political positions! But because Arianna had the moxie to pioneer a new form of media at a time when it was not easy to do so. We love free speech, we love a plucky attitude, and we love that the HuffPo has kicked the venerable New York Times’ derriere. The HuffPo passed the NYT in both traffic and revenue (for their web properties) a long time ago.

So when a contributor to the HuffPo takes a shot at MDN, you may find it weird or unusual that MDN would respond with accolades for the HuffPo. You shouldn’t. We just keep it honest and if you read this blog for any amount of time you already know that.

The author of the HuffPo piece, Brendan DeMelle, is editor of his own blog: The theme of DeMelle’s article is that media darlings can attack and accuse the shale gas industry because they breathe rarified air—they are “other” and special and above reproach. But as soon as someone responds to poke holes in their “research” and sham exposés, well then, who are you to question the great and powerful (media) Oz? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Here is the section where DeMelle mentions MDN, quoting from one of our articles:

Questions about Aubrey McClendon’s Chesapeake Energy in particular have come into sharper focus in light of a series of revelations by a team of over a half-dozen Reuters reporters, based on documents that show Chesapeake colluded with its competitors to drive down lease prices in Michigan, McClendon has borrowed heavily from lenders who do business with Chesapeake and ran a shady hedge fund on the side.

This Reuters series has sparked investigations into Chesapeake Energy’s books by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. It has also led to McClendon’s ouster as board chairman (though not as CEO) and driven Wall Street investors to scrutinize the company’s declining value for months.

But even these reports have come under fire and labeled attacks against the industry:

Another week, another “cut” at Chesapeake Energy and its flamboyant CEO Aubrey McClendon. Death by a thousand cuts will work, as long as in the end it’s death, right? And that’s exactly what the mainstream media is clamoring for.

A new hit piece by Reuters attempts to smear McClendon and in the process snags Canadian company Encana. …

ran an un-bylined piece in Marcellus Drilling News, a website that lists the Marcellus-region branch of the shale gas industry’s most aggressive PR shop, Energy in Depth, as among its key sponsors.

Ultimately, industry proponents may find that these sorts of unsubstantiated allegations of animus are subject to the law of diminishing returns. The field is increasingly crowded with reporters and columnists who have had their professional credentials questioned, had their coverage labeled a “hit piece,” or been accused of waging a “war” against shale gas. And the investigative reporting that prompts howls from the shale gas industry increasingly earns respect and accolades from fellow journalists.*

We want to help out our blogging brother DeMelle…we’re sure he’s interested in getting the facts straight. So in the spirit of metaphorically putting our arm around the HuffPo and Mr. DeMelle, we offer these clarifications:

(1) The byline for every single story on Marcellus Drilling News is Jim Willis (aka James A. Willis), with the exception of a few guest posts, which are clearly labeled. So next time, just attribute it to me. I figured people would get tired of seeing my name on every single story, and I considered it to be an exercise in extreme narcissism to list myself as the author of every single story. Hence, no byline.

(2) The “un-bylined piece” DeMelle links to on MDN is my story asking whether or not Reuters themselves broke the law—or “aided and abetted” breaking the law by obtaining private emails between two companies. Frankly, I have not seen this question raised by anyone else. Is there not anyone interested in the answer to where the emails came from? This was my brief observation in that article:

MDN wonders: How the heck did Reuters get access to private emails (i.e. private property)? Did they (gasp) break the law in doing so? Was it a “whistle blower” that illegally sent them a copy of said emails? Something to ponder. We thought if you break the law in order to keep the law that kind of defeats the purpose of having laws.

In light of the voicemail hacking scandal that still threatens to bring down Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, and has already brought down some of his key lieutenants, I wondered if maybe Reuters engaged in some of it’s own illegal activity by hacking into Chesapeake or Encana’s email system. It’s not such a stretch. It’s a legitimate question. Tell us Reuters, how did you get your hands on those emails? If it were a FOIL request (Freedom of Information Law) they surely would have trumpeted it as such. No, they’re hiding something, and I choose not to ignore it. Is that an ad hominem attack?

(3) DeMelle observes that Energy in Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative is a sponsor of MDN. True. But they contribute very little revenue to MDN (we wish it were more!). The not-so-subtle implication is that MDN is either a front for EID-NMI, or heavily influenced by accepting their money. Neither is even remotely true. EID’s contribution (so far) to MDN’s revenue has been around 5%. We’d like to know, how much money does George Soros contribute to HuffPo? We suspect it’s far more than 5%.

How does MDN make money? From a few (precious few) advertisers, but mostly by selling subscription access and by selling a book called the Marcellus and Utica Shale Databook. Don’t take these comments to mean that MDN does not appreciate EID-NMI. We love them and the great job they do. They themselves will admit to you they are an industry PR agency—they don’t hide. Neither do I—I proudly proclaim that MDN and EID-NMI are good friends and will remain so. Does their friendship corrupt MDN’s coverage? You be the judge.

Lady doth protest too much, methinks(4) Finally, DeMelle says that pro-drilling responses to set the record straight, what he calls “unsubstantiated allegations of animus,” are becoming less and less effective in the “war” that he says doesn’t exist. Really? Then why this article on HuffPo? I believe the opposite is true. I believe that people are reading sources like Marcellus Drilling News and Energy in Depth and they see another view—they read things that make sense to them and they draw their own conclusions rather than being spoon-fed what they should believe by Reuters, HuffPo and others.

The DeMelle doth protest too much, methinks. And in his protestations, he affirms that the very thing he pretends is diminishing, is actually ascending.

*The Huffington Post (Aug 1, 2012) – A ‘War on Shale Gas’?