Writing about oil and gas, and exploration specifically, can make for interesting listening at venues
away from the industry. Oil prices have been low
for a time, but with each jump in price, natural resources become a wider topic of discussion.
A few months ago, I was talking with a small
group of acquaintances, none of whom were industry folks, when the conversation turned to the
topic of oil, namely the price and a general query
of what my thinking was on the state of the industry.
Having taken off my editor’s cap, I offered a
light description of the week’s most recent analy-
sis. At some point, one member of the group sug-
gest that oil prices may always rise because “they
aren’t making any more dinosaurs.”
“Technically,” I retorted, “there are no dino-
saurs in oil.”
I followed this with the higher points of sedi-
mentary functions explaining how microorgan-
isms, sea plankton, and plant life were buried over
millions of years.
“Combine these carbon-rich deposits with extreme heat and pressure from subsequent burial,
and the Earth’s subsurface becomes a ‘kitchen’
that ‘cooks’ these layers of sediments into oil and
I spirited into a personal topic of interest: how a
new understanding of plate tectonics has helped
open presalt plays on both sides of the Atlantic in
recent years along the coasts of South America and
It wasn’t long before the small gathering gravitated to their phones to see what was new in social
media. Given the group’s rapid dispersion, plate
tectonics wasn’t a crowd-pleaser in the normal
sense of the term.
Casual conversation often raises questions
without the requirement of an in-depth answer.
For a slight variation on the term, a first lesson
provided to OGJ editors is, “never raise more
questions than you’ve answered.”
Fact-laden news stories often come with high
stakes. A typo can ruin a perfectly good lead sen-
tence, and an omitted word can induce skepticism
for even the soundest piece of analysis. Despite the
risks, an editor trudges the narrow path between
superlative language, unclear jargon, pertinent
facts, and redundancies from previous coverage.
Putting out news can come together quickly or can
be an uphill climb. No two stories are alike and
assigning the right facts for each news item is a
With too little information, a reader is left wondering. Providing too much information can lead
the reader to boredom. And once a story is on record, the readers are in control. Content marketing dictates that readers engage, but for an editor
it is more meaningful to know that readers learned
something new (as editors often do). At a minimum, readers should leave a story with some piece
of information that can be applied to further their
Being fast is important. Turning an 8 a.m. press
release into an 8: 30 a.m. story with a headline has
its value. But the second lesson for an OGJ editor:
writing a story correctly from an informed perspective is sometimes more important than publishing first. Quick is still good but holding a story
to add more facts improves the analysis. Analysis
after all, is half the job. The internet is a wonderful tool that offers an infinite space to run with
information, but economy of words takes thought.
Adding, expounding context and then “cutting
the darlings” is a process. Underlying the news is
the background by which an editor filters points
of fact to ascertain the information’s hierarchy, tailored for an informed readership.
It’s true, there are no dinosaurs in oil. But reflecting
on my OGJ-inspired response to a casual comment
reminded me that many times, stories are written
as answers to questions that haven’t been asked.
Journally speaking, analysis outweighs timeliness.
And while specialized knowledge can sometimes
be lost on a general audience, it’s well worth the
research and analysis that goes behind an in-depth
Analysis is the answer