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How do we want to spin this?

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Reuters recently ran a story that begins this way:

"Riverstone Holdings LLC, a private equity firm that focuses on energy and power sectors, said it would sell U.S.-based oil and gas explorer Rock Oil Holdings LLC to SM Energy Co (SM.N) for $980 million in cash."

Surely that sounds boring to most of you, dear readers. 

One point that may make the lede interesting, for observers of the news media, is the choice whereby the story was made to be about Riverstone Holdings, the PE firm. The other two firms are direct and indirect object, "to sell" is the predicate. Riverstone is the subject. [By the way, "lede" is standard journo jargon for "lead paragraph," as distinct from "lead story" for which the standard spelling is retained.] 

Was there an alternative? Of course there was! More than one, surely, but the one that comes immediately to my mind would read, "SM Energy Co is purchasing Rock Oil Holdings LLC from ...." etc. Should this story be about the buyer rather than the seller? 

It might depend on why the transfer of Rock Oil Holdings will be considered an important fact by at least some readers. The big reason, surely, is that Rock Oil possesses close to 25,000 acres in the Permian Basin, in Texas. Presumably the reason why SM Energy is buying is in order to extend its own holdings in that basin, a key part of the geography of the shale oil revolution.

The key reason why Riverstone is selling may be that it believes that revolution, at least in that basin, has already played itself out, so it would rather have the cash.

So which way one coaches the lede graf in that story may have a great deal to do with whether one is an optimist or a pessimist about that continuing significance of that revolution. 


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