Seeping Questions

What do you want to know about the Gulf oil spill?

Six weeks after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has “generated its highest level of coverage since the story broke, completely dominating the news agenda,” according to Pew Research Center’s weekly news index.

Nonetheless, “a litany of half-truths, withholding crucial video, blocking media access to the site and a failure to share timely and complete information about efforts to contain the largest oil spill in U.S. history have created the widespread impression that BP is withholding information about the April 20 oilrig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, if not misleading the public and the government,” McClatchy’s Erika Bolstad reported on May 29.

This raises the question: As BP continues to struggle to reduce (let alone stop) the amount of oil flowing in to the Gulf, what else should journalists be asking of all the parties involved in this disaster?

“Overall last week, the media continued to focus mostly on unfolding events such as the impact on the environment and the economy, as well as the containment and cleanup of the oil,” the Pew Research Center found. “About half the coverage went to these matters, while about one-third dwelt on the government’s role in managing the crisis and about one-sixth focused on BP’s culpability.”

Inquires thus break down into three general categories—what happened; what is happening; and what will happen. We’ve already seen some noteworthy coverage along these fronts. Reporters have dug into the risky method BP used to seal the well before the explosion; they are scrutinizing the impacts that oil and chemical dispersants may have on deepwater coral reefs and other marine life; and they are asking about the future of the oil industry, the federal Minerals Management Service, and U.S. energy legislation.

Many more details are needed to address these and other concerns, however. So, what questions have been seeping up from the depths of your mind?

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.