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With The BP Effect article series, I keep seeing a resounding theme of comments, and I wanted to clear something up.
The cause of the “disaster” part of this whole incident was two fold and without both of them, there would have been no “disaster” here in Panama City Beach. The word “disaster” in terms of how Panama City Beach was effected relates not to how much oil was on the beach (because there was practically no product EVER reported on our beaches), but to how our area was effected ECONOMICALLY. The first was the actual BP oil spill. Had that not happened, the second wouldn’t have been a factor.
The second causal element wouldn’t have been relevant had the BP oil spill never happened. The second is how the media responded to the incident and it’s ripple effect it had on our area – or shall I say tidal wave effect it had on our area. The old adage, “blood sells” was never more true than this summer, only with this summer, it was more like “oil sells.” Media outlets all over the country wanted a piece of the action, willing to do whatever it took to get the traffic. In this interview with Pam Anderson, one of the owners of Captain Anderson’s Marina, she recalled a reporter standing on the beach in Fort Walton telling her viewers that in one week from that point, those pristine white sandy beaches would be black, covered in oil. That never happened, and there was no way for that reporter to know whether it would. But you can sure bet she captured her viewers attention.
Reporting like this was duplicated all over the country, mis-information spread like wildfire and out-of-towners were convinced that oil covered the Gulf Coast, when the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. The extremely careless part of this frivolous reporting was the media not recognizing how much of a dramatic effect this would have on people, at the individual level. People ultimately lost jobs, families went hungry, businesses went out of business, not only because of an oil spill that happened dozens upon dozens of miles away, but because the way it was reported was ALL WRONG.
We recognized early on how important it was to have regular and consistent pictures and video published on all our channels (here, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube), showing the real picture of what it was like down here. it was amazingly beautiful all summer long. But we could barely work against the negative media that was spreading the fallacy of us having oil on our beaches. We were repeatedly called liars and fabricators, accused of publishing videos of the sections of the beach that had no oil and not telling anyone about all the supposed oil that was being reported to have been washed ashore. People that were not in this area were telling us that there was oil on our beaches and that we were lying when we said there wasn’t.
So, what caused this summer’s economic disaster? The BP oil spill AND the way the media handled it. The disaster wouldn’t have happened without ether one, and they both worked together. So, now that we’ve got that settled, I’m going to the beach.