A useful instruction

Oct. 30, 2017
Forty years ago tomorrow, the Oil & Gas Journal news editor handed seven pages of single-spaced typescript to a new hire on his first day and said something like, "Read this if you want to understand your job."

Forty years ago tomorrow, the Oil & Gas Journal news editor handed seven pages of single-spaced typescript to a new hire on his first day and said something like, "Read this if you want to understand your job."

The document was a speech Editor Gene T. Kinney delivered 20 months earlier at a formal staff meeting.

Kinney had become chief editor the month before he made those February 1976 remarks, which he set in the context of changes besetting an industry spreading away from the US. He retired in December 1989 after 34 years on the staff.

Memorable guidance

In the passage quoted here, Kinney provided guidance on relationships between journalism and commerce, editorial-writing, and service to readers that still serves this veteran well.

"Our mission, quite simply, is to make a profit. We have no other purpose. In order to carry out that mission, we create something of value. Our product is information. We publish news and technology of a scope and quality that the reader in the oil and gas industry can get from no other source. We in the editorial department turn out the base metal which the alchemists in the circulation and advertising departments transmute into gold.

"On the editorial page our role is to define and speak out for an economic and political climate which will enable the industry to do its job for energy consumers. This gets to be tricky business in an industry as diverse as [oil and gas]. Should we be partial to the international companies? The major domestic producers? The independents? The refiners, integrated or independent? On many issues, these individuals and segments are often at odds with one another. Finding our way through this mine field of controversy takes the wisdom of Solomon, the luck of the Irish, and, on occasion, the prudence to punt on third down. Our editorial posture has been made more complicated by expanding price and allocation regulations. This much is clear: We do favor development of energy resources under conditions of free enterprise. Experience has amply demonstrated that private capital, where allowed to operate on reasonable terms, has served consumers better than any alternative. Where government does intervene, we believe that it should not regulate one branch of the industry at the expense of another.

"So much for broad editorial policy with a capital 'E.' Our primary concern is with the editorial content of all the other pages in the magazine. As independent publishers, our job is to print the facts, figures, and analytical and technological information that will enable oil and gas companies to conduct their business more effectively.

"In order to run their businesses successfully, our readers need to know everything of importance that is happening throughout the pluralistic universe in which they operate. In the Journal we report and describe the world as it is: what the diverse elements of private industry are doing; what governments are doing; what government-owned oil and gas companies are doing; what it all means.

Reader service

"Our goal must be to deepen and broaden the acceptance of the Journal as the most comprehensive, most authoritative, most reliable publication in the field. Our bread and butter will continue to be service to readers who run the operating divisions of the oil and gas business-news and technology they can use in their daily operations. But today our readers demand more. They want and deserve help in interpreting the industry to its own members, and to those who write laws and regulations under which it must operate. This kind of service, I am convinced, will be a very marketable commodity in the future. It should pay off in stronger loyalties from our primary readers (and advertisers), who will be occupied increasingly with fighting for a political and economic environment in which they can survive and prosper."

At the start of a 40-year career, it helps to be instructed to read something really good.