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It's Not Big-Oil Propaganda, Dammit

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Chesapeake Energy has announced the creation of "an online news channel" devoted to the Barnett Shale, a potentially huge natural-gas find that lies under much of the area around Fort Worth.

Tracy Rowlett, a retiring Dallas anchorman who is to DFW what Ron Stone was to Houston, will be the managing editor. Olive Talley, a highly respected reporter who made her bones with the Houston Post and Chronicle before moving on to the Dallas Morning News and network-television producer gigs, will be executive editor.

Hmmm. Not to be blunt, Talley, but won't this job be, well....essentially energy-giant propaganda?

No way, she says.

"Chesapeake has given us assurances that they don't need any PR help; they already have PR people," she says. "They were not going to bring us on-board to do that, nor would we have been willing to come on-board to be PR shills, as we've been called."

Talley says Chesapeake is involved in a similar effort, cleanskies.tv, that she says has presented views across the political spectrum.

Chesapeake VP Julie Wilson "has told us she wants us to go out and do our jobs as journalists, and she's said it repeatedly," Talley says. "And I believe it. So I figure there's nothing to lose by going out and trying it. And if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But I'm actually very confident it will work."

Talley says critics should simply watch what they put up on the (Internet) air when the website goes live this fall. Which, we believe, is what Leni Riefenstahl said way back when.

Nah, just kidding. Talley and Rowlett are actually pretty big and impressive names. But it will be interesting to see just how far they're allowed to go.

-- Richard Connelly

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