prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Which mess is bigger…the oil spill or the government’s response?

Posted by prof e on May 29, 2010

More than five weeks after the April 20th explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that started it, the BP oil spill has eclipsed the size of the catastrophe known as the Exxon Valdez. Today we learned that the ‘top-kill’ procedure has failed, and that thousands of gallons of oil continue daily to add to the 18-40 million gallons of oil already fouling the gulf and the delicate marshes that line the coast of Louisiana. Some of this oil may make its way into the currents that will carry it around the Florida keys and up the east coast of the US. While that may take weeks or months, the mess has already reached Washington D.C.

In an effort to demonstrate that he is in control, President Obama made a three-hour visit to the region yesterday before heading off on his holiday trip to Chicago. Critics of the president note that he is skipping the traditional Memorial Day celebration at Arlington cemetery while taking his second vacation since the oil spill began. Similar criticism leveled at President Bush when he appeared to be too removed from the Katrina devastation has some calling this Obama’s Katrina. Whether the comparison is fair or not is beside the point…the real issue here is one of public perception. If enough people begin to see parallels between the two presidents’ handling of these two tragic events, the political fallout will likely be as damaging to Obama as it was to Bush.

Crisis communication is only one aspect of the job for PR professionals. But right now, the gulf oil spill crisis is sucking the air out of any other PR agenda that the White House would prefer to have on page one. Short of successfully capping the leak and quickly cleaning up the gulf coast region, (neither of which look likely at this time), this crisis is going to continue to wear on the White House. As Mara Liasonn at NPR aptly noted, “the longer the spill goes uncapped and the greater the environmental damage, the harder it will be for the White House to look competent and effective.”

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3 Responses to “Which mess is bigger…the oil spill or the government’s response?”

  1. Alayna Abeyta said

    I can’t believe that it’s been over a month since the oil spill origionally occured. It is absolutly horrible that there have been so many failed attemps to cap it off and that still thousands of gallons are spilling into the Gulf every day. Something needs to be done, and hopefully it will be done soon.

  2. Karlee Weiler said

    I was so upset when Obama blew off the oil spill. BP was lying to the public about the severity of this disaster and got away with it. Obama pretended it didnt happen until a month later. By then, several decades of damage had already been done. This oil spill has yet to show us the kind of damage it caused. Animals are still washing ashore dead after more than a year. Necropsies show that they suffocated. Babies will have defects, and some species will become threatened due to the breeding inconvience that year. There were thousands of still borns found. But BP will jump back, because we depend on them too heavily. They are too powerful in this country.I bet no one knows that they had another horrible spill in Alaska about a month ago, but was it covered? No. BP has the power to pay off certain companies to not tell a story that makes them the bad guy once again. How sad and pathetic that we are destroying our earth for guilty pleasures that will not matter in the end. You cant replace a species and you certainly cannot replace a life lost. Once its gone, its gone for good.

  3. Melissa G. said

    The issue with the oil spill is bigger than ever, but it takes a lot of work to clean up and sometimes that takes time. Obama is most likely dealing with each issue the US faces with understanding of public opinions. Yes, the effect it could have on our environment is horrible to think about, but don’t believe everything you hear about the President, you need to decipher the good form the bad. If we all work together to help clean-up we could at least decrease the amount of oil, but realistically it’s not going to ever be perfect.

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