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Oil and Water

Media Lessons from Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Andrea Miller

Publication Year: 2014

Along the Gulf Coast, history is often referenced as pre-Katrina or post-Katrina. However, the natural disaster that appalled the world in 2005 has been joined by another catastrophe, this one man-made--the greatest environmental and maritime accident of all time, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In less than five years, the Gulf Coast has experienced two colossal disasters, very different, yet very similar. And these two equally complex crises have resulted in a steep learning curve for all, but especially the journalists covering these enduring stories.

In Oil and Water, the authors explore the media-fed experiences, the visuals and narratives associated with both disasters. Katrina journalists have reluctantly had to transform into oil spill journalists. The authors look at this process of growth from the viewpoints not only of the journalists, but also of the public and of the scientific community. Through a detailed analysis of the journalists' content, the authors tackle significant questions. This book assesses the quality of journalism and the effects that quality may have on the public. The authors argue that regardless of the type of journalism involved or the immensity of the events covered, successful reportage still depends on the fundamentals of journalism and the importance of following these tenets consistently in a crisis atmosphere, especially when confronted with enduring crises that are just years apart.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

This has been a labor of love born out of two tragedies, seven years in the making, and a true team effort. As professionals turned academics, we truly understand the different parts of the stakeholder equation—the social scientist, the audience member, the news creator. We study disaster with an

Hurricane Katrina Timeline

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pp. ix-xii

Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Timeline

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pp. xiii-2

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pp. 3-14

Residents along the Gulf Coast know that to speak of their cities, neighborhoods, and landmarks, they have to clarify, “Are we talking pre-Katrina or post-Katrina?” Even newcomers are stigmatized as belonging to a post- Katrina reality, devoid of the context and deep-rooted traditions of the...

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1. Seeking Information in Disaster

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pp. 15-36

We now live in a world of 4G news updates. The latest breaking news crisis can turn any one of us into an instant Anderson Cooper, the anchor man on the street of the next major crisis or tragedy. All we need is to phone a friend on our latest smartphone, text an “OMG!,” capture eyewitness...

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2. Journalists Live Their Disaster Stories

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pp. 36-64

Peggy Gaddy of Belle Chasse, Louisiana, wrote to one of the Times-Picayune’s managing editors, Peter Kovacs, six months following Hurricane Katrina insisting that the paper’s Living section columnist, Chris Rose, deserved a raise. The reason: “His column in Friday’s paper made me...

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3. National versus Local Disaster News

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pp. 65-81

Wearing recycled newspaper hats saying “Save the Picayune,” roughly a hundred citizens turned out one June morning in 2012 to let their local journalists know they cared. One homemade sign by rally protestor Jerry Siefken read “Publish seven days or sell to owner committed to the common good.”...

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4. Who Runs This Disaster? The Media and the Blame Game

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pp. 82-99

In A Concert for Hurricane Relief on NBC on September 2, 2005, rapper Kanye West uttered the now infamous quote, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people . . .” Five years later, George W. Bush wrote in his 2010 book Decision Points that the backlash from Hurricane Katrina, more so...

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5. Sources and Accuracy in Disaster

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pp. 100-124

Sources say what the journalist can’t. During Katrina, sources said what the journalist wanted to. Boxed in by an ever-increasing skeptical public and a twenty-first century abundance of cable talk show pundits, pick-your-cause alternative media, and digital user-generated news, journalists have held...

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6. Visuals of Disaster

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pp. 125-144

The power of pictures is undisputed. A single snapshot can sum up all meaning, above and beyond the cliché word “iconic” (the term of the experts) and the less eloquent “unforgettable” (the term of the masses). At the height of photojournalism, from the World War II era and onward, a single still frame...

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pp. 145-156

When everyday people talk about Katrina or the Deepwater Horizon disaster, both crises are often discussed as “Louisiana disasters.” But the scopes of the tragedies are far-reaching on land and at sea. Stories of manmade and natural disasters and recovery are narratives that are told over and over...

Appendix 1. Studying the News of Two Disasters: A Timeline

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pp. 157-158

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Appendix 2. Annotated Bibliography of Studies Contributing to This Book

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pp. 159-162

Bemker LaPoe, Victoria, and Andrea Miller. “Local vs. National Coverage: How Journalists Covered the Largest U.S. Marine Oil Disaster as Industry Resources Decline.” Presented to the Internet, Media and Politics division at the Southern Political Science Association...

Appendix 3. Additional Disaster-Related Research by the Authors

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pp. 163-164


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pp. 165-184


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pp. 185-188

E-ISBN-13: 9781626740174
E-ISBN-10: 1626740178
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617039720
Print-ISBN-10: 1617039721

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 861789151
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Oil and Water

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Disasters -- Press coverage -- United States.
  • Hurricane Katrina, 2005 -- Press coverage.
  • BP Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill, 2010 -- Press coverage.
  • Mass media -- Objectivity -- United States.
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