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Distinctions in Covering BP Oil Spill Suggest a Maturing Press
Unformatted Document Text:  Important distinctions surfaced when evaluating the Gulf states individually. Florida, Mississippi and Texas treated the story as an environmental one while Louisiana, whose economy is dependent on both commercial fishing and the oil and gas industries, covered the oil spill primarily as an economic one. Also giving the most coverage to economic issues were the newspapers in Alabama, whose small coastline accounts for a third of the red snapper caught in the Gulf of Mexico. 49 Environment-themed stories can also be seen as economic ones. Many of the worries expressed in Florida newspapers, for example, about the migrating oil fouling beaches were also concerns about the impact on tourism. However, the coverage distinctions in the five Gulf states shows that local newspapers focused on local variations of primary interest to their readers. Texas newspapers that wrote about the economy focused on commercial fishing because its waters were less impacted by the oil than were those of the other Gulf states where fishing was halted. And although the moratorium on deep-water drilling grabbed the attention of politicians, the local newspapers focused their attention on the economic issues that held greater importance for their readers. This focus may also explain the finding that small-circulation newspapers were more likely to cover the spill as an economic story than were medium-sized and large-circulation newspapers in the Gulf. Smaller newspapers can focus more intently on the issues of greatest importance to their readers. Conversely, the national newspapers devoted far more effort than did the Gulf papers, collectively, on dissecting what went wrong. That attention fits the mission of the three national papers. The Times-Picayune of New Orleans published a few investigative stories examining how the accident occurred, which may reflect the resources available a relatively large (by Gulf Coast standards) paper as well as its expertise in covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Authors: Lewis, Norman., Starr, Walter., Takata, Yukari. and Xie, Qinwei (Vivi).
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Important distinctions surfaced when evaluating the Gulf states individually. Florida, 
Mississippi and Texas treated the story as an environmental one while Louisiana, whose 
economy is dependent on both commercial fishing and the oil and gas industries, covered the oil 
spill primarily as an economic one. Also giving the most coverage to economic issues were the 
newspapers in Alabama, whose small coastline accounts for a third of the red snapper caught in 
the Gulf of Mexico.
Environment-themed stories can also be seen as economic ones. Many of the worries 
expressed in Florida newspapers, for example, about the migrating oil fouling beaches were also 
concerns about the impact on tourism. However, the coverage distinctions in the five Gulf states 
shows that local newspapers focused on local variations of primary interest to their readers. 
Texas newspapers that wrote about the economy focused on commercial fishing because its 
waters were less impacted by the oil than were those of the other Gulf states where fishing was 
halted. And although the moratorium on deep-water drilling grabbed the attention of politicians, 
the local newspapers focused their attention on the economic issues that held greater importance 
for their readers. This focus may also explain the finding that small-circulation newspapers were 
more likely to cover the spill as an economic story than were medium-sized and large-circulation 
newspapers in the Gulf. Smaller newspapers can focus more intently on the issues of greatest 
importance to their readers.
Conversely, the national newspapers devoted far more effort than did the Gulf papers, 
collectively, on dissecting what went wrong. That attention fits the mission of the three national 
papers. The Times-Picayune of New Orleans published a few investigative stories examining 
how the accident occurred, which may reflect the resources available a relatively large (by Gulf 
Coast standards) paper as well as its expertise in covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 


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