December 16, 2017
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National Geographic aerial photo of Deepwater Horizon oil covering an Alabama beach. (Photo: Tyrone Turner)

Looking Back on Deepwater With Journalism as Usual

By Janine Jackson, CommonDreams

April 20 marked the 6-year anniversary of the biggest oil spill in US history, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which new research says was even bigger than previously understood, at least in terms of the amount of coastline that was oiled. That’s noted in a piece on NationalGeographic.com (4/20/16), one of a very few outlets to note the occasion with reporting beyond a “This Day In History” squib.

Some media, like the New York Times (4/14/16), allowed the White House to use the anniversary as a peg to release regulations they released in draft last year—aimed, we’re told, at preventing equipment failures like those that contributed to Deepwater Horizon. New rules will tighten controls on blowout-preventers, there will be more real-time monitoring of drill and spill containment. Government is proud, some environmentalists are skeptical, the industry says it’s too much.

It’s standard stuff, as if the paper forgets its own reporting (9/4/14) on the ruling on Deepwater in which US District Court Judge Carl Barbieri cited not a lack of rules but a failure to respect them, calling out the entire industry as “motivated by profit” to operate with “conscious disregard of known risks.”

In a case where business as usual is the problem, journalism as usual can’t be the response.