Journalism Fail: Inaccurate Reports About North Dakota Oil Activity Dropoff Continue


Earlier this week I wrote a funny story about a report that the rate of North Dakota’s oil well completions had fallen off a cliff.

Reuters market analyst John Kemp wrote about it in a column on Wednesday.

“No new well completion reports have been filed in North Dakota since July 10, the longest gap this year, according to daily activity records published by the state’s Department of Mineral Resources (DMR),” Kemp wrote.

“If the slump continues over the next few days, it could be a sign that shale producers are deferring putting more wells into production to save cash and wait for better prices,” he continued.

If true this was big news both for North Dakota and for the national energy markets. And, not surprisingly, Seeking Alpha (an influential investment news website) was quick to pick up on Kemp’s column.

The problem is that the premise of Kemp’s column wasn’t true, as I pointed out on Thursday. Well completions aren’t down. In fact, oil producers had reported 28 completions, a very strong number. The reason none were showing up in the reports is that the guy who does the reports down at the Department of Mineral Resources was on vacation, a fact I confirmed with Alison Ritter the spokeswoman for the department.

Since then I have contacted both Kemp (Twitter) and Seeking Alpha (a comment on their post). I would do more, but I can’t seem to find email addresses for the authors of those stories. Regardless, they haven’t corrected the errors and the public continues to be misinformed. Kemp’s column even ran in a number of North Dakota publications where editors ought to have known better.

I’m sure they’ll realize their error eventually when all those completions do show up in a report, but those stories remain online and they’re giving a false impression of the state of North Dakota’s oil play.

And the whole thing good have been avoided if someone – Kemp, specifically – had bothered to pick up a phone and call someone to verify information.