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Ship of State Sinks Along With Truth in Deepwater Horizon Disaster

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This writer has just spent the better part of a week driving the I-10 from Tallahassee to New Orleans before the Transocean/Deepwater Horizon well explosion morphed from an "incident" to a "catastrophe" in the mass media. We can no longer call this a "leak" or a "spill." It is literally a river of oil, flowing anywhere from 5,000 barrels a day to 25,000. Take your pick. Whatever the numbers, there is a very real scenario on the horizon which could have the oil grabbed by the Gulf Stream and sent clear on up the east coast of the United States. It is especially distressing to see media focus on the possibility of ruined beaches at the expense of ignoring the Gulf Coast wetlands that are nature's nursery for marine life.

Initially, being an old-school journalist, this writer was willing to give the "unified command" of the Coast Guard, NOAA, British Petroleum (BP), State and Federal officials the benefit of the doubt. Even when officials in charge of the staging area for boom and clean-up material on Woolmarket Road in Biloxi painted a yellow line on the driveway, across which no media could cross, the journalist in me thought, "Well it is private property, so it is within their right to do so."

Now that the catastrophe has become big news, and satellite trucks rented by world media are gathering like hyenas for the kill in Venice, LA, "unified command" has decidedly changed its tune. Recognizing that BIG MEDIA views firsthand video and photos of oil lapping the shore with the same enthusiasm reserved for exclusive photos of Lindsay Lohan coming out of rehab, or Tiger Woods' mea culpa for bad behavior, media is now "invited" to embed.

Unified Command, Mobile, Ala. offers media availability. Media interested in attending should call the Unified Command Joint Information Center, Mobile, Ala., at (251) 445-8965 before 7 p.m May 2, 2010. Members of the media will need to be escorted onto the base and should arrive at the NAS Pensacola West Gate no later than 9:30 a. m.

Sorry. Thank, but no thanks. I'm not going to (em) bed. I saw the controlled Coast Guard photos that came out of Venice, LA the very same day I was there. Fishing vessels and cleanup vessels were stuck in port due to high seas and winds. The booms that were already in place were being over-washed with water and oil, had sunk, or had been disrupted. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told media oily water was lapping over the booms set at the Birdsfoot Delta area. The "official photos" were staged in such a way as to make it look like the booms were in place at sea. This was not true.

Here is what we saw:

Stuck in Port
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Here is Coast Guard Press photo:

Here is Associated Press photo of ineffective booms:

Broken Booms
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There is no doubt that men and women worked very hard to load all of the boom material aboard the vessels in Venice. It is the context in which the "official" photos are presented which is the problem. The booms have been stuck in port for at least three days now in Louisiana due to high seas. The Coast Guard should have said that in their official release.

Today, NOAA is restricting fishing for a minimum of ten days in federal waters most affected by the BP oil spill, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida's Pensacola Bay. The closure is effective immediately. This has the potential to result in economic devastation for an already battered Gulf Coast fishing industry.

Statement from Harlon Pearce, Chairman, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board:

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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