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Sunday, May 30, 2010

"First Reports Are Always Wrong"

Our chapter on mass media cautions against putting too much trust in early press reports of an event, especially a catastrophic one: "Errors are likely in the chaos of disaster." Even when journalists accurately convey official statements, those statements may themselves be mistaken. The attempt to stop the Gulf oil spill is a case study.

Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2010:

Engineers have stopped the flow of oil and gas into the Gulf of Mexico from a gushing BP well, the federal government's top oil spill commander, U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Thursday morning.

The "top kill" effort, launched Wednesday afternoon by industry and government engineers, has pumped enough drilling fluid to block all oil and gas from the well, Allen said. The pressure from the well is very low, but persists, he said.

Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2010:

A top Obama administration official warned Sunday that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill might not be stopped until late summer after BP's latest attempt to plug the leak failed.

The "American people need to know" that it's "possible we will have oil leaking from this well until August, when the relief wells will be finished," said Carol Browner, the White House energy advisor.
In the words of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "first reports are always wrong."