I can’t promise that Pipeline Online stories are going to be the first you see in your social media news feeds. That’s because I’ve attended events where other Saskatchewan media have a story online before I’ve even packed up my cameras.

But here’s the difference: they plucked a couple soundbites from the event, threw up a few sentences in piece in quest to be first up, but in many cases that’s it. Onto the next thing. I noticed this in particular at an oil and gas rally held in Moosomin a few years ago. The large media not only had a reporter and camera person asking questions, they had another person on a laptop in the back, writing a story as the event was going on, and posting it around the time or almost immediately after the scrum at the end. How can you possibly know the story when the event isn’t even over yet?

Do you know what they’re missing? Context. Depth. Understanding of the subject matter and issues. Sure, they got their sound bite. But I filled half a printed edition on that event. There was a lot more to it.

Why? Because it mattered. The oilpatch, by nature, is small-C conservative. These people don’t attend protests, drive in convoys, or go to rallies unless they’re really, really riled up. And that’s what was going on in Moosomin that day.

Here’s another example: On Sept. 10, SaskEnergy announced its first rate increase in many years. It came out on a Friday morning. In general, governments try to announce bad news on a Friday. The West Wing famously did an episode on it in 2000, called “Take Out the Trash.” This clip explains it really well, noting that if you release a bunch of bad news at the same time on Friday, the amount of attention the press spends on each item is correspondingly reduced. In this case, the same morning saw Premier Scott Moe and Dr. Saquib Shahab hold a press conference, the first in quite a while, on increasing COVID-19 cases resulting in reduced medical services. There was not a lot of happy news in that press conference.

Other press releases that day said, “Saskatchewan leads nation in job growth,” “SaskTel completes $107 million Wireless Saskatchewan Initiative with launch of 10 new cell towers,” “Provincial Court judge appointed in Yorkton,” “Youth Safety Education Day,” “Timber allocation approved for Big River sawmill,” and “Timber allocations approved for major sawmill expansion in northeast Saskatchewan.”

That’s a lot of news in one day. Those timber allocations were the third and fourth announced within the week, meaning thousands of jobs and a rebirth of a substantial portion of our forestry sector. For Prince Albert, it’s the most positive news in over a decade, with a re-opening of the pulp mill announced the day before. So if you are going to announce bad news that’s going to affect nearly every consumer in the province, like a natural gas rate hike, that sounds like a good day to bury it.

This also came the morning after the only English-language leaders debate for the federal election, so a lot of the media’s attention was finishing up chewing on that bone.

 

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And indeed, by 1 p.m. CTV Regina, the LeaderPost, CBC Saskatchewan and SaskToday.ca (Glacier Media’s attempt at becoming a provincial news media go-to site) had not yet posted anything about the rate hike, despite the press release going out at 10 a.m. Usually these sites would have a story out within 20 minutes, carrying the press release and not much else. I half-listened to the premier’s very lengthy press conference, and I don’t recall one question about the rate hike. It was all about COVID. Go figure.

So I took a look at the press release, and yes, I used most of it. But here’s what else I did – I added context. Did you know Saskatchewan had essentially stopped drilling for natural gas around a decade ago? And that as a result, our gas prices (reflected in the rate review request) are largely impacted by the AECO hub price? How about the fact that futures prices for the AECO hub for the next year are all higher than the current rate hike request?

Graphic from SaskEnergy 2020 annual report

A hike in natural gas prices hits all consumers, yes. But Pipeline Online is focused on energy producers. And if we can make more for our product, it means more revenues, more taxes, more jobs. After all, farmers don’t complain about higher canola prices. They welcome it.

In many ways, the collapse of gas prices around 2007-2008 could have been likened to the collapse of the cod fishery in Newfoundland. The industry went from hero to zero in no time flat, and stayed that way.

Let’s take that context a little further. Until the natural gas price collapse, southwest Saskatchewan used to drill thousands of shallow, dry gas wells per year. In the last decade, that has completely disappeared. But if gas prices are coming back up, will there be a point where the shallow, dry gas of the southwest is economical again? Could some of the dozens of small rigs be put back to work again, if they haven’t already been sent to the scrapper? What does that mean if you own a rig moving company, or service rigs, in Swift Current? What if you’re looking for work there?

Indeed, with headlines around the world talking of energy shortages in China and Europe, WTI at US$75 and WCS at US$63, we could be on the cusp of something big on the horizon. The sun will soon shine on Saskatchewan’s energy sector. I’m making the bet of my life on it.

So, Pipeline Online might not be the first out of the gate, but if energy matters to you, this is where you’re going to find the stories that show that context is king.

 

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  • 0027 TED_NA Helium 2021_30
  • 0028 SIMSA_Energy_Forum_2022
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0015 Latus Viro PO Ad 01
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
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  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
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