Last week, CNN’s Anderson Cooper reported that the federal government was blocking media access to coastal areas around the Gulf, preventing them from taking photos and reporting on the environmental damage of the oil spill. You can watch the video and see Cooper is livid that the Obama administration is treating him and his colleagues this way.
Cooper of course compares this to Katrina when media were blocked from…well we’re unsure what the media was blocked from in Katrina, since the photos and video from the Superdome, the Convention Center, the overpasses, levees, streets and neighborhoods contributed to possibly the most photographed crisis in history. (Cooper points out that they were blocked from seeing people “dying in their homes” – yeah, uh, same thing)
There are two real stories here, and we do appreciate Cooper bringing one of them to light. The media should of course not be blocked by the federal government from safely reporting on the spill and its effects. The heartbreaking images of oil soaked pelicans, turtles, tarballs and destroyed marshes achieve one important goal – to remind Americans of the disaster the federal government is ignoring. To this day, the media continue to have unnecessarily limited and prohibitive access to the disaster area, including reporters being hassled on public streets. NPR reported yesterday on a reporter who was asked to reveal the images on his camera, and his social security number by members of the local police, FBI and BP.
But there is a second story.
The second story is that while national reporters are fighting the Obama administration’s lack of transparency, they’re not reporting the Obama administration’s lack of competence. Every minute a correspondent scuba dives into the Gulf to reveal that oil is, well, murky, or an anchor shows you another tarball, we miss out on real journalistic oversight.
The Obama administration is making catastrophic decisions every day that are crippling the Gulf Coast environment and economy, yet this story is not being told. A team of experts from The Heritage Foundation, without any credentials, were able to move along the coast unfettered, interview officials, fisherman, port workers and experts to discover major mistakes being made in the response efforts. These stories do not require a pristine camera shot, but rather some old fashioned investigating.
Yes, the story that the White House is engaging in a cover-up mentality is important. As the Louisville Courier-Journal reported yesterday: “The National Press Photographers Association has sent a letter to President Obama expressing outrage at the new rules and requesting that he rescind them. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a union that includes broadcast journalists, is monitoring reports of denial of access and censorship.”
But as Billy Nungesser, President of Plaquemines Parish said to Anderson Cooper: “Maybe if [the Federal Government] spent more time getting things like that deployed to pick up the oil, they wouldn’t have to worry about blocking access from the media…if we did our job, and did the right thing, the news you would be reporting would be good news. You would be showing marsh being clean.”
Exactly, let’s also focus on what the government is hiding rather than just the methods they’re using to keep things hidden. And if the government is held accountable for the cleanup they are solely responsible for managing, then the media will be let in because the story will finally get better. We hope.