Drilling debate draws international media attention
It's not very often that the world takes notice of the Southern Tier of New York and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania. The debate on fracking has brought such attention from a most unlikely source - TF1, considered to be the most viewed news channel in Europe and in its home country of France. A French news crew spent two days in the area doing interviews, focusing on Owego the first day before moving on to Towanda on Friday.
TF1's Senior Producer in the United States, Bruce Frankel, and U.S. Bureau Chief Michel Floquet drove from New York City for an 11:30 a.m. interview on Thursday with Times Shamrock Weekly Group and Daily Review Publisher Greg Zyla and Wendy Post, editor of several weekly newspapers including the Owego Pennysaver. During a lengthy interview, Zyla highlighted the newspapers published by Times Shamrock, The Daily/Sunday Review from Towanda and the Northeast Gas Driller - an industry-friendly media print.
Zyla said that while the Northeast Gas Driller was established to provide balance and highlight the positive activities involving the gas drilling industry, that it does not, in any way, affect his desire and mandate to provide serious and critical coverage of the drilling industry in other publications such as The Daily/Sunday Review.
"That does not mean our job of policing the industry has changed," Zyla said, adding that he strives to ensure that local news coverage of problems associated with gas drilling is thoroughly covered in their daily news print.
Floquet said that there is currently an open-ended moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in France, though it can be removed at any time to allow drilling. "We're interested to see what people think here," Floquet said, adding that the border region interested them because there is drilling right over the border in Pennsylvania, while New York is still considering the future of fracking in the Empire State.
"I just picked it on the map at random," Frankel said of their decision to come to Owego, "it's near the state border and I wanted to talk to people on both sides of the border. Then I saw how beautiful the town is and saw that it had protesters." The pair's second interview of the day was with some of the leading anti-fracking voices in Tioga County, N.Y. - Geri Wiley and Wes Ernsberger.
Wiley said she became concerned about fracking as drilling got underway in Pennsylvania around four-and-a-half years ago, eventually leaving her job as a public health nurse to concentrate full time on studying the issue. Wiley was instrumental in forming Residents Against Fracking Tioga, or RAFT, which has collected nearly 3,000 signatures in Owego asking for a drilling moratorium in the town. She came prepared to the interview, bringing numerous charts and maps
along with a four inch high stack of petitions RAFT has collected.
Frankel said his job as producer for TF1 brought a variety of stories for him to cover, saying that the day before coming to Owego he had been busy on New York's Fifth Avenue shooting footage of holiday window dressing. The two international journalists met in Columbia back in 1987 while covering a volcano eruption, then they went on to
Jerusalem, Frankel said. In North America they started out in Ottawa, Canada before moving down the East Coast, with Frankel now stationed in New York City and Floquet working out of Washington, D.C.
Frankel said the two days of interviews they were doing in the area had to be compressed into a small segment which will be shown to TF1's eight million viewers in about two weeks.
"It's cute, very nice, very interesting," Floquet said of Owego.
Looking down Riverrow he added, "I like that the biggest building is a book store," referring to John Spencer's Riverrow Book Shop.