During the holiday season, Fort Worth Report journalists are remembering their favorite stories of 2022. Click here to read more essays.
Last February, just a few weeks after we became colleagues, I looked at government reporter Rachel Behrndt and said: “Let’s just go over there and see what happens.”
After taking a frantic phone call from a resident in southeast Fort Worth’s Stop Six community, Rachel had already visited a natural gas drilling site where neighbors reported plumes of black smoke rising into the clear sky.
We still needed to know how the resurgence of natural gas drilling in Tarrant County was changing people’s day-to-day lives, and the clock to finish our story was ticking. So we hopped in a car, drove 10 minutes to Stop Six and started walking through the neighborhood. I flagged down a man packing his car trunk and started asking questions.
The man’s grandfather, 96-year-old Willie Miller, had lived in the home across the street from the drill site for more than 60 years. Soon enough, a group of neighbors gathered outside the home on the corner, describing the “booms” they felt each night since drilling began. Fracking was no longer a distant mystery to them, or to me. It was right in our backyard.
Reporting that story, and meeting the human faces behind the incident, reminded me why I became a journalist. To connect with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. To tell stories that no one else would take the time to research. To see things for what they are.
The story – Willie Miller’s story – has informed so much of my reporting on natural gas drilling and energy issues in Tarrant County.
And for Rachel and me, the investigation established what has become our MO: Chase a story down the rabbit hole, as far as it will go. We’ll stay on the trail in 2023.
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter.
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