It appears Urbina crossed the line into sensational journalism with his baseless claims by failing to conduct proper background checks, and his tendency to overstate the credentials of anonymous sources. This problems with his reporting apparently have driven a wedge between Times editors trying to justify the story, and those concerned over the long-term repercussions for the paper.
On July 7, we askedNew York Times ombudsman Arthur Brisbane to look at the newspaper's front-page series on natural gas by reporter Ian Urbina, who alleged that the sector is in the grips of a speculative bubble. We specified a number of apparent ethical problems with Urbina's methods and sources.
In Sunday's paper, Brisbane addressed the central concern raised by us and many others - that Urbina ignored the fact that production of natural gas from domestic shale deposits is booming. Brisbane wrote:
NLPC today asked the New York Times ombudsman to review the newspaper's front-page series on natural gas published last week. The articles by Ian Urbina alleged that there is a speculative bubble in natural gas drilling. We have identified a number of apparent ethical problems with Urbina's methods and sources.
Here is the complete text of my letter to The New York Times ombudsman Arthur Brisbane, whose actual title is Public Editor: