BP ‘Reporter’ Flies Over Gulf Without Noting Slick


A Facebook friend, Kristin Aldred Cheek, pointed me to a pretty wild bit of faux journalism recently concocted by BP as part of its public relations efforts related to the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. On his blog, a BP “reporter,” Tom Seslar, describes a two-hour helicopter flight over the gulf with a team charting oil patches.

He somehow finds space in his post to describe the scope and vital importance of the oil industry and the beauty of the coastal marshes. He fits in a plug for the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival scheduled for early September in Morgan, La., and includes the festival’s promotional line describing “the unique way in which these two seemingly different industries work hand-in-hand culturally and environmentally” — with no hint of the deep irony, of course.

But he doesn’t include a single line describing the spreading gulf slicks that the flight is supposed to chart. The effort provided raw meat for Rachel Maddow (watch the result above).

BP Press Release Theatre: Flying Higher from The Rachel Maddow Show on Vimeo.

Welcome to the post-media world. As conventional journalism becomes a smaller wedge of the expanding pie of communication, anyone with a vested interest can undertake the equivalent of a land grab, trying to dominate the searchable infoscape of the World Wide Web. (You may have heard that BP recently bought up search terms related to the gulf oil disaster to direct Web sifters to its Web site.)

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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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