It’s hard to cover a story one cannot get to. We’ve been reading occasional complaints for weeks that BP, with most of the hardware (however ancient it may be) for dealing with the worst crude oil spill in the nation’s history and thus having most of the people running the show, has been no help and plenty of hindrance to reporters covering their public demonstration of calamitous non-preparation. It’s no surprise that a private company’s suits would want to stifle press freedom to go to the spill, to take pictures, and to interview people in the know. But pathetic that they have been permitted to get away with it. I mean, does BP really have authority over air space and navigation in the Gulf of Mexico? ow about just going to a public beach? Who gave them that? Where are the federal agencies that say they are in charge? Are they in cahoots with BP in stifling press access?
Some reporters have bit back the best way they know: in print. At McClatchy, Erika Bolstad late last month wrote a furious story on the “litany of half-truths, withholding crucial video, blocking media access to the site and a failure to share timely and complete information” by BP. The story strongly suggests that the feds have stood by and done nothing to get information faster to the public – the success of one congressman, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, at getting a live video stream of the streaming well head made public being an exception.
That piece triggered at the Columbia Journalism Review an editorial castigating all involved for trying to manage the news. Also at CJR, Brett Norman in late May wrote on “the gall” of BP for shutting down its “top kill” effort for the better part of a day while the press, not told, blithely went on reporting that the ultimately failed effort was continuing as planned.
Trying to cover up what is going on, or appearing to, is always a problem when you want to manage the news. The military learned the benefit of embedding reporters, who then often gave quite glowing reports.
BP could stand to do some thing that might provide some better news, if that is possible at all.