Investigating the Price of Oil
Crude Power is part of a larger investigative collaboration series with media the National Observer, the Toronto Star and Global Television.
THE NATIONAL OBSERVER
by Dr. Emily Eaton, Dept. of Geography, University of Regina / Corporate Mapping Project
Oct. 1, 2017
THE PRICE OF OIL SERIES
The unprecedented collaboration behind the project
Over nine months, an unprecedented collaboration of more than 50 journalists and editors from three Canadian media outlets, four journalism schools and a think tank worked to chronicle the hidden price of oil in Canada.
Collectively, reporters examined thousands of industry and government documents, analyzed terabytes of data and delved into dozens of freedom-of-information requests.
“The project started with the people,” says Patti Sonntag, a managing editor in the New York Times’ news services division, who launched the project with a grant from the Michener Awards Foundation. Following a tip from a colleague at the Corporate Mapping Project, she did some research and reporting in Saskatchewan last fall.
Working with the previous year’s Michener winner, Toronto Star journalist Robert Cribb, Sonntag created a team of students at the Ryerson, Concordia and UBC journalism schools. Concordia University’s Department of Journalism volunteered to act as host and headquarters for the project.
University of Regina students reported on the ground locally, shot video and developed sources, while students at the other universities aggregated and analyzed data and interviewed experts.
“We’re pulling these four different schools from across the country and looking at it from all different aspects,” says Janelle Blakley, a University of Regina student reporter whose team mapped spills data and met local farmers and residents. “This collaboration allowed us to really dig into it, where all schools were pulling apart different pieces of it and then coming back and putting it all together.”
The significance of the data quickly drew intrigue. What emerged was a picture of a few dedicated regulators — and even some industry leaders — who tried to introduce greater accountability, but these efforts were ultimately overwhelmed by larger forces.
“You start to understand these figures really do play a huge role in dictating the direction of the Canadian economy and that plays out in the lives of everyday Canadians,” says Lauren Kaljur, a graduate of UBC’s master of journalism program who has been investigating the concentration of corporate power in Saskatchewan’s oil and gas industry since the beginning of 2017.
To Matthew Gilmour, a recent journalism graduate at Concordia University, after spending months populating spreadsheets and ledgers, “there’s the human moment where you realize it’s not just a pocketbook story. It’s a human story. And people’s lives are affected.”
The work continued past the end of the semester in April 2017, with students working alongside veteran reporters at the Star, the National Observer and Global News to shape the stories, seek comments from all sides and publish hundreds of pages of government and industry records, detailing concerns about potentially deadly gas emissions for the first time.
Robert Cribb, The Toronto Star
Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow
P.W. Elliott, University of Regina
Elizabeth McSheffrey, The National Observer
Data and documentation journalist:
Michael Wrobel, Concordia University
Jennifer Ackerman, University of Regina
Madina Azizi, University of Regina
Janelle Blakley, University of Regina
Cory Coleman, University of Regina
Mike De Souza, The National Observer
Josh Diaz, University of Regina
Brenna Engel, University of Regina
Matthew Gilmour, Concordia University
Celine Grimard, University of Regina
Jared Gottselig, University of Regina
Lauren Kaljur ,University of British Columbia
Rebbeca Marroquin, University of Regina
Matthew Parizot, Concordia University
Katie Doke Sawatzky, University of Regina
Michaela Solomon, University of Regina
Kyrsten Stringer, University of Regina
Caitlin Taylor, University of Regina
Steph Wechsler, Ryerson University
P.W. Elliott, University of Regina
Trevor Grant, University of Regina
Patti Sonntag, Michener Fellow, based at Concordia University
Concordia University, Department of Journalism
Ryerson University, School of Journalism
University of British Columbia, Graduate School of Journalism
University of Regina, School of Journalism
The Michener Awards Foundation
Corporate Mapping Project
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
University of Victoria
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Televised investigation: Oct 1 & 2, 2017 on Global National at 5:30 CT/MT/PT & 6:30 ET/AT