June 7, 2010|
As the oil from the BP Gulf coast spill continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico, the attention of the nation seems to focus on it more and more. As one of the worst environmental disasters our country has ever seen, it is garnering huge media attention across platforms and is sure to be one of the biggest news stories of the year. Now in the age of always-accessible information, people seeking factual, unbiased details from the spill area are left wanting.
The Washington Post reported last week that several major news organizations were being blocked from comprehensive coverage in myriad ways, including restriction of flight access and chaperoning of reporters in newly-restricted areas. Information has also been slowed by comprehensive gag orders written into contracts between BP and employees, including clean-up personnel and local boat owners. In addition, BP is "using paid search to influence public opinion" according to the Huffington Post . Every time a Google search is launched using relevant terms-including "oil spill", "gulf coast" and "BP disaster", the first sponsored link directs to BP's "Gulf of Mexico Response" page, offering corporate-tinged updates.
Although Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander for the federal government, told ABC News' "This Week" that he produced a written order for the media to be allowed "uninhibited access", the mainstream media is still being blocked in several avenues. This is where you come in.
In the age of citizen journalists and Web 2.0, every-day people are stepping up to the challenge of reporting one of the worst environmental disasters of all time. Using facebook, twitter and brand new social media tools, non-credentialed civilians are keeping tabs on the spill and it's effects. The twitter hashtag "#oilspill" has been trending for weeks, with discussion spurred by pictures and tweets sent from the area affected by the spill. A Facebook group advocating for a boycott of BP has over 400,000 "likes" and user-uploaded photos of protests, affected animals and damaged coastline.
In addition, people looking for ways to document and share news of the spill have a brand new avenue-the mobile application OilReporter . Developed by CrisisCommons with Intridea and Appcelerator, OilReporter allows for mobile mapping, photo-documentation and real-time reporting of injured wildlife, oil-stricken beaches and wetlands. It even has a sliding scale with which the user can report exactly how much oil is in each location, and the ability to cross-check your location and information with the Federal Government, State Government, and Google Crisis Response data sources. With this new tool, normal people can report on the spill as it affects their lives directly, and share information with people all over the world concerned with the ramifications.