As Spill Coverage Fades, People Remain Hungry for Information


Reporter Jay Reeves and his Associated Press colleagues have an important story that went viral this holiday weekend with a telling headline we knew we’d see sooner or later: “America moves on from spill; coast feels abandoned.”

They begin with a Delaware man who has launched a nonprofit to keep the spill on people’s minds and also report from Alaska, where folks know a little something about being abandoned after an oil spill.

Along with personal observations from around the country, the story cites a Pew Research Center study that “… found that only 1 percent of news coverage was dedicated to the spill last month, down from 22 percent during the height of the crisis. However, a separate Pew survey found that 34 percent of the people responding to a poll in mid-September said they were still very interested in the spill — making it the top news item that week in terms of public interest.”

That shows that, as we might have guessed, the media coverage moves on well before interest fades.

Another important point is just how successful the BP strategy of confusion and contradiction has been – and just how damaging that NOAA “mission accomplished/vast majority of oil is gone” moment was. After noting that people are simply not getting the flood of on-the-ground reports like they used to, the AP says: “What’s going on is the continued arrival of oil washing ashore, although in lesser amounts than during the summer. Dire predictions of environmental Armageddon have yet to materialize, but there’s also no consensus on how badly the ecosystem has suffered. At first, no one could agree on how much oil was spilling into the Gulf; now there’s disagreement over how much remains. A commission this week faulted Barack Obama’s administration for multiple missteps, including an effort to block scientists from telling the public how bad the spill could be early on.”

That is the unfortunate result of the relationship between our federal government and Big Oil. That too-cozy relationship led to lax regulation, then to those low-ball flow estimates, to a poor response… and now, to contributing to the “abandoned” feeling in the Gulf.

It’s an important story for your must-read list:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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