Energy Policy Journalism Oil Power Renewables

Some Thoughts on Middle East Energy Journalism

Young man climbs on a rocky wall in a valley with mountains
Young man climbs on a rocky wall in a valley with mountains

 

By Nicholas Newman Energy Journalist

 

Some thoughts on what skills and qualities a middle east energy journalist needs to have.

1.What journalists and the public should know about the oil and gas sector?

They will have to realise, how important the energy sector is to every aspect of life and work. In addition, what a complex and interesting subject it is which I find simply fascinating.

2.Why do many so many governments intentionally hide important information?

There are a number of reasons why they do this. These include:
• Cultural traditions of the country.
• Cultural- in terms of the leadership and management style of the governing elite
• Strategic
• Geopolitical
• Market issues

3.Why do companies hide information about their activities, production, contracts, revenues?

• See above answers to 2
• Also revealing such information could have severe domestic political implications for the government concerned.
• In addition, journalists have to realise, that many companies themselves do not have the required information in the specific format required by the journalist. In a sense a good journalist is like a good detective, a bit like Sherlock Holmes, sorting and sifting out the jungle of data, in order to discover the true picture.

4.What every energy journalist should have in his or her tool box of knowledge and skills?

Apart from the traditional journalistic skills, they need to have an ability to turn complex and technical and financial stories into compelling narratives. Also, provide a gateway for readers whether members of the public, investors and decision makers to comprehend the often complex issues that face the energy sector in a given part of the world.

5.Which kind of difficulties do journalists face when covering an oil & gas story?

The key issue is defining, comprehending and understanding what the problem is; often the problems faced are often very complex. In addition, the solutions and resultant implications are similarly complex.

6.What do you do, if you are not given the required information? Do you continue to produce the story or do you cancel it?

Even at the best of times, not all the relevant information is available, due to disclosure deadlines etc. A good journalist uses what he has, plus applies his experience and knowledge of previous similar stories to the story in question. After all, journalists familiar with BP did not wait until the US government report was published to start discussing what occurred at Deep-water Horizon in the GOM. They were able to speculate that some of the reasons behind the accident were due to failures of corporate leadership, since that was one of the factors behind previous BP problems with BP owned projects such as the Alaskan oil pipeline spills and explosion at the Texas City Refinery.

7.Why are most Arab-owned oil companies not listed on the Stock Markets?

1) I would suggest a number of reasons, these include:

Many of the companies involved are state owned.
A central planning style legacy of government adopted by many governments like Algeria, Egypt and Syria after independence.
They have not yet seen the need to raise additional capital via the stock market.
They are operated as a government department rather than a business. After all SNCF is a major European transport logistics business, that is still state owned, but acts as a business.
Stock market listing would encourage greater transparency and accountability than many governing elites desire.
8.Which kind of information should the journalist ask about?

Relevant information that will aid the reader in his understanding of some of the issues, problems and solutions involved.

9.What do you suggest to ensure that journalists and public get necessary information on oil & gas sector?

Don’t expect to find all the relevant insights and information from just one source. Build up a variety of technical, regulatory, academic, managerial, customer sources. I think it is essential that energy journalist acquire expertise in the topics involved and actively networks with the people involved.

10.How to make oil companies respect rules of transparency and disclosure?

Keep asking the questions, get them to realise that increasingly it is in their interests to respect growing expectations in both business and the public for higher standards of transparency and disclosure.

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