Fracking: Meet the reporter who sues the companies she covers

Energy-in-Depth’s Jeff Eschelman writes in the Washington Examiner:

…In just the past year, the New York Times was rebuked two separate times by its own public editor for misleading coverage as part of its “Drilling Down” series. Sloppy reporting is one thing. But what if I told you there was a journalist covering the shale debate for a major media company who was currently suing the very industry on which she’s reporting?

Meet Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe of the Denton Record-Chronicle, a paper owned by the same company that owns the Dallas Morning News. Heinkel-Wolfe leads the paper’s Barnett Shale beat, and has over time developed a reputation as something as a “pass-through” for activists in the area interested in securing easy coverage.

Her shale-related stories are generally pretty easy to spot, with titles like “Practice Lays Waste to Land,” “Lowering the Boom” and “Into Hostile Territory.” The text is often even worse. This past summer, she went so far as to blame the incidence of breast cancer in North Texas on Barnett shale development, notwithstanding that the counties with the most Barnett-related activity have all recorded breast cancer rates well below the national average. Independent public health professionals have similarly confirmed the safety of development.

But actually, the week before her breast cancer story hit, a separate item in the paper included in its 13th paragraph an incredible note: Heinkel-Wolfe, it said, is “a plaintiff in a separate lawsuit against the [natural gas] companies” relating to the siting of a processing station…

Read the entire commentary.

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