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Oil and Water

Oil and Water: Media Lessons from Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Andrea Miller
Shearon Roberts
Victoria LaPoe
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Oil and Water
    Book Description:

    Along the Gulf Coast, history is often referenced as pre-Katrina or post-Katrina. However, the natural disaster that appalled the world in 2005 has been joined by another catastrophe, this one man-made--the greatest environmental and maritime accident of all time, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In less than five years, the Gulf Coast has experienced two colossal disasters, very different, yet very similar. And these two equally complex crises have resulted in a steep learning curve for all, but especially the journalists covering these enduring stories.

    InOil and Water, the authors explore the media-fed experiences, the visuals and narratives associated with both disasters. Katrina journalists have reluctantly had to transform into oil spill journalists. The authors look at this process of growth from the viewpoints not only of the journalists, but also of the public and of the scientific community. Through a detailed analysis of the journalists' content, the authors tackle significant questions. This book assesses the quality of journalism and the effects that quality may have on the public. The authors argue that regardless of the type of journalism involved or the immensity of the events covered, successful reportage still depends on the fundamentals of journalism and the importance of following these tenets consistently in a crisis atmosphere, especially when confronted with enduring crises that are just years apart.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-017-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-14)

    Residents along the Gulf Coast know that to speak of their cities, neighborhoods, and landmarks, they have to clarify, “Are we talking pre-Katrina or post-Katrina?” Even newcomers are stigmatized as belonging to a post-Katrina reality, devoid of the context and deep-rooted traditions of the people of this region. To date, Katrina remains the most expensive hurricane the United States has ever seen and one of the deadliest.² In less than five years, the region was to add to the superlatives, suffering the greatest environmental and maritime accident of all time—the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The headlines here have screamed...

  2. (pp. 15-35)

    We now live in a world of 4G news updates. The latest breaking news crisis can turn any one of us into an instant Anderson Cooper, the anchor man on the street of the next major crisis or tragedy. All we need is to phone a friend on our latest smartphone, text an “OMG!,” capture eyewitness video and stills, and finally upload it to our own YouTube channels, Facebook walls, and Twitter feeds. Instantly, we are all our own personal newsmakers. We now expect information on anything and everything—when we want it and where we want it. Yet Hurricane...

  3. (pp. 36-64)

    Peggy Gaddy of Belle Chasse, Louisiana, wrote to one of theTimes-Picayune’s managing editors, Peter Kovacs, six months following Hurricane Katrina insisting that the paper’s Living section columnist, Chris Rose, deserved a raise. The reason: “His column in Friday’s paper made me laugh out loud when there was not much to laugh about.”¹ Before Katrina, Rose had been somewhat of a local legend. His writings were quirky like the city, featuring local celebrity chef culture, the state’s burgeoning film industry, and the goings-on of Mardi Gras, festivals, and the old rock ’n’ roll scene. Now, Rose joked a year later,...

  4. (pp. 65-81)

    Wearing recycled newspaper hats saying “Save the Picayune,” roughly a hundred citizens turned out one June morning in 2012 to let their local journalists know they cared. One homemade sign by rally protestor Jerry Siefken read “Publish seven days or sell to owner committed to the common good.” The word went out like an echo across media outlets lining the Gulf Coast. Seventy civic and business groups signed a petition to get Advanced Publications to keep their hometown paper as a daily. From WWL-TV in New Orleans to KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, television anchors, radio announcers, and even local bloggers...

  5. (pp. 82-99)

    InA Concert for Hurricane Reliefon NBC on September 2, 2005, rapper Kanye West uttered the now infamous quote, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people . . .” Five years later, George W. Bush wrote in his 2010 bookDecision Pointsthat the backlash from Hurricane Katrina, more so than his administration’s handling of the Iraq war, was the all-time low of his presidency. In 2010, on the anniversary of Katrina, Bush poured out:

    Five years later I can barely write those words without feeling disgust. . . . I faced a lot of criticism as president. I...

  6. (pp. 100-124)

    Sources say what the journalist can’t. During Katrina, sources said what the journalist wanted to. Boxed in by an ever-increasing skeptical public and a twenty-first century abundance of cable talk show pundits, pick-your-cause alternative media, and digital user-generated news, journalists have held their heads above the fray simply because they hold to the credence that they are fair. But scholars have always known there was an imbalance in the “he said, she said,” of newswriting fairness of who finally ends up being quoted in print or through sound bite. The VIPs—the presidents, governors, mayors, and their spokespeople and public...

  7. (pp. 125-144)

    The power of pictures is undisputed. A single snapshot can sum up all meaning, above and beyond the cliché word “iconic” (the term of the experts) and the less eloquent “unforgettable” (the term of the masses). At the height of photojournalism, from the World War II era and onward, a single still frame could embody social and cultural meaning, becoming its own marker in time. Disaster visuals are in a category of their own: the aerial view of Columbine High School as armed police escorted students with raised hands down the sidewalk, the airplane striking the South Tower of the...

  8. (pp. 145-156)

    When everyday people talk about Katrina or the Deepwater Horizon disaster, both crises are often discussed as “Louisiana disasters.” But the scopes of the tragedies are far-reaching on land and at sea. Stories of manmade and natural disasters and recovery are narratives that are told over and over again not only in our society but around the world. The media tell these stories first. The power of news producers to shape the framing and interpretation of major events determines the immediate response and future outcomes of crises. Katrina and the oil spill were crises that were different from most, because...