Photo via Free Extras
According to some of the mainstream media, anyway
After taking a look back to assess the media's coverage of the BP spill this week, I think only one internet-born acronym will suffice to convey my opinion. And that, of course, is WTF. It seems like we've been bombarded with headlines and stories that were cranked out directly by BP's PR machine -- only way rosier than BP would likely venture. Stories about how all that dern oil has just up and vanished! How BP must be doing an amazing job of skimming, and how all of us silly worrywarts were up in arms over nothing -- the spill wasn't that bad. Seriously, check out some of these headlines: Move Along Folks, Nothing More to See Here
Here's one from the AFP that ran on Yahoo! News, the most-visited homepage on the internet: Gulf focus shifts, but where is all the oil? And here is its lede: "With BP's broken well in the Gulf of Mexico finally capped, the focus shifts to the surface clean-up and the question on everyone's lips is: where is all the oil?"
This may be the single worst account written out of the literally thousands of reports filed about the BP spill. At one point, the author even suggests that the "beaches should be relatively painless to mop up," despite the fact that on some of those beaches, the oil is already thickly situated in the sand.
But this wasn't the only offender -- the New York Times, which has run some pretty dubious pieces about the Gulf spill (for instance, the authors of this piece, which includes such gems as: "the Deepwater Horizon blowout is not unprecedented, nor is it yet among the worst oil accidents in history" and "it will have to get much worse before it approaches the impact of the Exxon Valdez accident of 1989", must be having second thoughts about now), ran this on the front page: "Gulf of Mexico Oil Slick Appears to Vanish Quickly"
. It's not as bad as the AFP story, but it again gives BP the benefit of the doubt, and revels in the fact that the spill is disappearing "much more quickly" than anyone would have thought! Yet it somehow manages to barely make mention of the 1.8 million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants dumped in the Gulf to achieve precisely that aim.
Last but not leas, Time has another doozie: "The BP Spill: Has the Damage Been Exaggerated? That story leads with Rush Limbaugh calling the oil spill merely a case of 'eco-hype'. And then it proceeds to agree with him. I won't go into how bad this story is -- Kate Sheppard did a fine job of doing that in her own takedown at Mother Jones.
All of these stories are, at best, jumping the gun in a very big way -- there's still so much investigating left to be done, so much impact analysis, so much careful study of the affected ecosystems. Not mention the oil is still out there, whether reporters can see it on their media flyovers with the Coast Guard or not. Much of it was likely broken up into tiny bits, where it drifted down the water column and is getting eaten by sea life.
And there are plenty of places where it's still washing up, still thickly covering beaches and marshlands, still killing wildlife. I know all the reporters out there are good and tired of the "oil spill sucks" stories, and maybe deemed it time for a change of pace. But let's not get ahead of ourselves with those contrarian, good news-bearing headlines. We have a ways to go yet before we can declare one of the biggest environmental disasters in US history an 'exaggeration'.