Of All The Oil Boom Towns in All Southern Texas: Texas Monthly Writer Claims USA Today Took His Story

Texas Monthly cover

Texas Monthly’s November cover

There was something kind of familiar about a recent USA Today article on the impact of the Texas oil boom on a small Texas town. At least, Bryan Mealer, a writer who wrote a lengthy story for Texas Monthly last November about the impact of the Texas oil boom on a small town thought so.

In Mr. Mealer’s over 10,000-word cover story, he visited the town of Three Rivers, which is about 75 miles outside of San Antonio.

Located on the Eagle Ford Shale, Three Rivers is minting millionaires and billionaires as energy companies, armed with the ability to frack, rush to unlock the oil that is buried in the sedimentary rock formation beneath South Texas. Mr. Mealer’s main character in his story is Richard Dockery, a real estate agent who has gotten rich off of the boom.

Mr. Jervis also went to Three Rivers, where he also used Mr. Dockery as his main character. The real estate agent gave both men similar quotes, and there are some anecdotes and phrases about Mr. Dockery’s life that appear in both stories.

“This looks too similar to my Nov. Texas Monthly story, main character, anecdotes, and all. Yet no attribution,” Mr. Mealer tweeted, in response to USA Today reporter Rick Jervis’s link to his story.

“Richard Dockery is also in your story. What other anecdotes/similarities are there?” Mr. Jervis replied, before writing another tweet instructing Mr. Mealer to email him or the USA Today public editor with any grievance.

In a note on Facebook, Mr. Mealer elaborated on the similarities between the stories, explaining that Three Rivers isn’t the only oil boom town in Texas. The Eagle Ford Shale lies beneath a large swath of South Texas (everything really is bigger in Texas).

Surely Mr. Jervis could have found his own small boom town and character, Mr. Mealer suggested.

Texas Monthly editor in chief Jake Silverstein chimed in, tweeting at USA Today’s editor in chief David Callaway:

Mr. Callaway hasn’t responded on Twitter. And neither Mr. Jervis nor Mr. Mealer has responded to The Observer‘s request for comment.

It is worth noting that this is hardly the first time writers have dueled over a fracking story. In November, we wrote about two Wall Street Journal writers who had battling books about the hydraulic fracturing boom.

Seems that the oil rush isn’t only drawing wildcatters and energy companies. It’s also a lure for writers.