Newsweek has posted an expose of sorts that documents leaky oil company BP’s repeated efforts to avoid bad PR by doing the obvious thing — keeping photographers away from the most heinous scenes of the Gulf oil spill.
More than a month into the disaster, a host of anecdotal evidence is emerging from reporters, photographers, and TV crews in which BP and Coast Guard officials explicitly target members of the media, restricting and denying them access to oil-covered beaches, staging areas for clean-up efforts, and even flyovers.
We already knew this was happening, but Newsweek catalogs the press’ grievances extensively and offers additional color to the apparent coverup. Newsweek notes that photos of the disaster have appeared, but many of them are from BP and the government, entities that both have incentive to portray the spill as really no big whoop. And then there’s the blockade against low-flying planes over the area of the spill. The story goes so far as to say that the Coast Guard and BP are in direct cahoots:
Photographers who have traveled to the Gulf commonly say they believe that BP has exerted more control over coverage of the spill with the cooperation of the federal government and local law enforcement. “It’s a running joke among the journalists covering the story that the words ‘Coast Guard’ affixed to any vehicle, vessel, or plane should be prefixed with ‘BP,'” says Charlie Varley, a Louisiana-based photographer. “It would be funny if it were not so serious.”
Not to be too journalisty and self-serious, but images of cute animals covered in horrible black goop do go a long way toward galvanizing public opinion about disasters like the Gulf spill. And as long as the government and BP are preventing those little critters from showing up, we continue to run the risk of caring about the tragedy a lot less than we should.