Earlier this week, a Reuters exclusive reported that Western buyers had stopped payments for contaminated oil sold to them by Russians firms. A major pipeline from Russia to Central Europe and Germany was said to be heavily contaminated with organic chloride, which is used to clean oil wells and accelerate the flow of crude, and could take months to restore clean oil supplies. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Crude Oil Market Reporter Olga Yagova gives a behind-the-scene look at how she reported the story.
Q. How did you score this exclusive?
A. As part of the Moscow crude oil team, we’ve been in constant contact with all the market participants – sellers, buyers, traders, port agents, regulators, etc. This is exactly the situation when we all need each other to get any information about the situation’s development. Russia’s government and Russia’s pipeline monopoly Transneft, which should oversee the situation, gave very little amount of information and it is all very unclear where things are going. So, after weeks of discussions, my colleagues and I scored the exclusive.
Q. What types of reporting were involved?
A. I’ve been on the phone constantly, as well as have my colleagues. We’ve been in this industry for years, so we know the people. Also, I’d say that our understanding of the market helps us, for instance we know when the payments are due, how the volumes are supplied, who’s selling and buying, etc.
Q. What was the hardest part of the reporting?
A. The hardest part of the reporting is to explain how it all works to a foreign reader (as Russia is quite specific), while not to kill the narrative with technical details.
Q. Why was this an important story to tell our customers?
A. Russian crude oil contamination is one of the biggest stories that has ever happened to the world’s crude oil industry. Russia is the second largest crude oil exporter in the world. The story has been going on for over a month now and we knew from the beginning it’s going to stay with us for a long time.
Q. What makes you passionate about journalism?
A. Russia’s contaminated crude issue took everyone by surprise. At first nobody knew anything and then lots of gossip appeared. For instance, the Russian web was full of articles where authors made comments on the situation making their own theories. In such times, I feel we can be a source of reliable information, which our clients can work with. It really makes me feel good when I can help our customers make business decisions, to understand the situation right and to have some insight.
Q. What is your beat and what do you find most fulfilling about it?
A. Crude oil markets have been my main specialization since my start in journalism. Since crude oil is still the main thing that moves the world’s economy, it is a good topic to write about. It’s always moving, always changing, and there are so many grades and aspects. You can really study it for life and never know enough about it. So, it’s quite challenging and interesting most of the time.
Q. What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a journalist?
A. I like to get news from good analysis, to make a story after studying the development for a while, having good chats with people who know the topic, learning from them, and prove a theory. The worst part of my job is asking uncomfortable questions in uncomfortable situations.
Q. Can you imagine being anything other than a journalist? If so, what?
A. Yes, of course. I can imagine being an analyst, a consultant or on the other side – even a writer. The best thing about our job as journalists – a possibility to study people and life. We see so many aspects of it and it is amazing.