"Beat" Reporters Cover the Energy Industry in Iraq

February 16, 2011
Despite representing 90% of Iraq’s state revenues, the oil industry is little understood by the country’s population and rarely covered in the media, often because journalists lack the expertise to cover the varied political and economic complexities of the industry.

Internews’ Covering Energy project in Iraq aims to enhance government accountability in the critically important oil industry through “beat journalism,” where a cadre of reporters will build expertise in coverage of the sector. Ultimately the project will raise awareness of the energy industry and add a level of accountability to the sector. 

“Oil is Iraq’s most important commodity, yet very little has been reported about current commercial deals, new oil exploration activity, reserves data, and its impact on the environment,” said Jamal Dajani, Internews Vice President for Middle East and North Africa. “Journalists who complete this rigorous training will not just only be able to cover the extractive industry in Iraq, but will also be equipped with the necessary skills to speak with authority about other oil producing countries in the region.”

Covering Energy works in two parallel tracks. The first is to nurture a group of energy reporters, who will gain a solid skill set amid market demand for their expertise. The second is to educate general-topic journalists and managers to understand the value of beat reporters, deploy them effectively, and connect them to industry experts, public and private sector decision makers, and civil society in practical ways. This union will build mutual understanding and trust, widening the scope and culture of transparency in an industry that has long been enshrined in secrecy.

Internews is in the process of starting up its first office in Baghdad. It  has selected an interim start-up Chief of Party (COP), Mr. Ben Lando, to initiate launch of the program. Mr. Lando is a former UPI correspondent and the founder and current Iraq Bureau Chief of iraqoilreport.com.  The website is devoted to news and analysis of developments directly and indirectly related to Iraq’s oil sector. Mr. Lando has lived in Baghdad since 2006, and has extensive knowledge of the network of media professionals and NGOs operating inside Iraq.