[Coral-List] Media and Oil Spill Science

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Fri Aug 27 09:51:36 EDT 2010

No perhaps.  I am a very accurate journalist, but mistakes happen under 
deadline pressure.  In my world, I often have hours to report and file a 
story -- not weeks.

Oh, and as I happen to know Chris Reddy -- and I've worked with him at 
WHOI -- I think I can say his experiences are not more in line with what 
you said.

I've read his CNN commentary, and I understand the point he was trying 
to make.  What he misses, and the reporting that he criticizes does not 
miss, is the overall social context of the Deepwater Horizon event.  It 
has happened in a time of decreasing trust of government and business 
sources -- and given the past 50 or 60 years of federal misadventures on 
the world stage, from Vietnam to Cambodia to Iraq to the recent mortgage 
bubble, people and the press have a damned good right to not trust the 
government.  Given the past 20 years of corporate rapaciousness and 
collapse -- again the mortgage bubble is a good example -- people and 
the press have a damned good right not to trust big business.

Then, when someone makes a big mess (disaster) which the government's 
failure of its regulatory responsibilities helped lead to, but then the 
government and that someone says it's  not all that bad -- why in the 
hell should I trust them?  When someone submits a report that appears 
counter the official narrative -- as a journalist I feel obligated to 
consider that angle in my reporting.  That may make scientists like 
Reddy uncomfortable, but in the overall social context, the journalists 
you criticize are doing what they should.


On 8/27/2010 8:20 AM, gchallenger at msn.com wrote:
> What can I say?  My experiences are more in line with Mr. Reddy's.  Perhaps you are a very accurate journalist.
> Regards
> Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
> -----Original Message-----
> From: "David M. Lawrence"<dave at fuzzo.com>
> Sender: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2010 23:11:27
> To:<coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Media and Oil Spill Science
>    Greg,
> I'm a journalist, and I know quite a few journalists now, and I've not a
> hell of a lot of journalists in the 40 or so years I've been associated
> with them. They do prize accuracy and work hard to maintain their
> credibility. If you can do -- and have done -- a better job under the
> intense deadline pressures they face, which are even worse now with
> 24-hour news cycles, be my guest and criticize them. But given the fact
> that some of what you have said doesn't square with my personal
> experience of many of my colleagues, I rather doubt you have met my
> criteria.
> Sincerely,
> Dave Lawrence
> On 8/26/2010 6:57 PM, Greg Challenger wrote:
>> I dont presume to speak for all the scientists on the spill but I have no indication that they do not believe that the majority of the oil is evaporated, dispersed, burned, recovered, etc.  It is not a hard conclusion to reach since about 30-40% evaporates in the first five days after it hits the surface. Natural and chemical dispersion did a lot, mineral oil aggregation, photo-oxdation, biologial activity, etc. etc. It is not much of a leap to assume more than 10-20% of that which remains after evaporation is burned, dispersed, recovered, etc. which puts us into the "majority column".  I would hope that nature and the response have dealt a blow to at least 20% or more of the oil by now.  That number is likely higher. The "bubbas" (term of endearment) on the beach cleaning the oil will tell you the difference on the shorelines from several months ago and today.  It is dramatic.
>> We have snorkel surveys, nearshore snare traps, fluorometer searches, bottom grabs, ROVs and hordes of other samples and activities looking for this oil that the public fears is out there waiting to rear its ugly head and come back to get us.  This fear is natural and I dont fault anyone for their concern. The fact of the matter is that the visible and chemically detectable oil decreases rather than increases over time.  Hurricane Alex also likely helped disperse quite a bit. You may have noticed you havent seen too many beaches on CNN lately.....nothing to see that will traumatize viewers suffiently to boost ratings.  You may have also noticed that the report of the subsurface "plume" that has been flying around the news was from two months ago.  I dont think anyone argues there was more oil in the water two months ago.
>> I have had a fair amount of experience with the media and spills.  I have not talked to media in over five years as they have never reported anything I have said with any accuracy whatsoever.  Accuracy is not within their top ten objectives. Starting a controversy is priority number one. It seems Mr.. Reddy may have learned this lesson as well.
>> Cheers,
>> Greg E. Challenger Marine Scientist/Associate Polaris Applied Sciences, Incorporated 12509 130th Lane NE Kirkland, WA 98034 425-823-4841 425-823-3805 fx 206-369-5686 cell visit us at: polarisappliedsciences.com
>>> Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2010 15:44:33 -0400
>>> From: sealab at earthlink.net
>>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>>> Subject: [Coral-List] Media and Oil Spill Science
>>> Chris Reddy makes good points in his op-ed piece for CNN,
>>> but the headline could be misleading.
>>> Perhaps it should read:“How the science relating to the gulf
>>> oil spill was mangled by everyone involved.”
>>> I don’t like being put in the position of defending the media,
>>> but are they really the most culpable in this scenario?
>>> With all due respect, how else was the information released in
>>> the NIC report of August 2 to be interpreted if not as an overly
>>> optimistic assessment claiming that a significant portion of the oil
>>> spill’s impact had been successfully mitigated?
>>> Why else would introductory statements at the White House press
>>> conference on the report (August 4) suggest that: “The conclusions --
>>> key conclusions of the report is that the vast majority of the oil
>>> has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed and recovered from the wellhead,
>>> or dispersed. And much of the dispersed oil is in the process of relatively
>>> rapid degradation.”
>>> Followed by a further endorsement that “This has all been subjected to
>>> a scientific protocol, which means you peer review, peer review and peer review.”
>>> Even the Georgia Sea Grant update of August 17 that seemed to clearly challenge
>>> the Inter-Agency Oil Budget Report explained that it determined that
>>> “the media interpretation of the (NIC) report’s findings has been largely
>>> inaccurate and misleading.” (Rather than the report itself.)
>>> So the question remains, was it really the reporters who mangled the science
>>> or in this case, did the “science” mangle the reporters?
>>> Regards,
>>> Steve
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