Monday, June 07, 2010

The stupid leak

When it comes to environmental disasters and the news, they usually have to be big to get noticed. In the case of the Gulf of Mexico leak, it is certainly big. But at least one important reason why it's been such a big news story for so long, is that's it a leak. As of writing this it hasn't stopped leaking. But let's imagine it had. If the same amount of oil had escaped from below the surface in one big explosion, in the course of one day, would it be as a big a story? No, it wouldn't, it would have been a big story for a little while but would have been bumped out of the news cycle a long time ago until the oil showed up on land, at which point it would have received another dollop of attention.

But since it is a leak (if one can call a roaring geyser a leak) following a large explosion, it's kept itself in the news cycle with the simple questions like: Has it been plugged? What's been done to plug it? When will it be plugged? And so on. With the way the news cycle works today this is what it takes for a story to receive the attention it deserves. In the extras of "All the President's Men" Robert Redford makes this case in the context of the 1970's and Watergate, 40 years ago News stories unfolded slowly and and stayed in the cycle much longer. Not so today.

I wish the rig had never been built, and I hope the leak is stopped yesterday; but all told I'm glad is was a leak and not one big event that we could have glossed over. Instead it's been in on our minds and in our faces for a month so far, it's put pressure on the President, BP, offshore drilling, and the industry as a whole. All of which would've been much less significant, without the longevity of the stupid leak.