On BP reputation issues–Reuters gets it wrong, Dezenhall gets it right

It’s been fascinating to me to watch the PR pundits deal with BP’s reputation issues. I haven’t commented too much because BP is longtime client in crisis communication and I and others in my company are involved in this situation–that means anything I say will be dismissed by those who disagree and I can’t be as free to comment as I would be if I was not involved.

Reuters has an in-depth article about BP’s PR blunders–a topic that seems to provide endless fascination for the PR press as well as general media. A number of excellent points are made in this article, in addition to the tiresome re-hash of supposed gaffes. For example, the oft-repeated sloppy journalism story about BP’s faulty initial flow estimates–as I pointed out before only Factcheck.org and the Rolling Stone got this right–these were estimates from Unified Command. These were government estimates. Then of course there is the statement by CEO Hayward that he wanted his life back. This is simply unfair–silly perhaps to make a comment like that when so many in the gulf would like their life back, but it seems rather obvious that he was trying to say that there are few people more eager to get the hole plugged and the oil cleaned up more than him. Still, a vitally important media training lesson. Don’t allow your CEO (or Chairman for that matter) to just talk endlessly off the cuff for hours and days on end because sooner or later they will say something that the sharks will bite on.

But while no doubt BP has made a number of serious PR mistakes, this article misses the main point. Of all the commentators on BP’s PR problems, the only one I’ve seen who got it seriously right is Eric Dezenhall. I’ve been a fan of Eric for a long time–I quoted him from his book “Nail ‘Em” quite often when I wrote my book Now Is Too Late. I learned a lot from him about the nature of the media and the truly ugly game infotainment has become.

Here’s what Eric says in the Reuters article:

“PR is not the antidote to what’s happening here. Whenever something like this happens it is a 100 percent certainty that the public relations will be deemed to be botched,” said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis PR specialist for almost 30 years,

Washington-based Dezenhall said BP’s communications efforts must be judged over the longer term.

“All of these PR chestnuts that sound wonderful in a college class, about apologizing and contrition, there is very, very weak data to show these cliches bear out in reality.”

As to where I stand, I have been doing a series of by invitation only webinars and at the end I discuss why the public opinion about BP and the spill response is so bad, considering that earlier on they were doing a pretty darn good job of communicating about what was going on (in my opinion that has deteriorated badly in the last few weeks). Here are my reasons:

1) Media blame game-it’s just the way media is done these days, particularly around big disasters where people are getting killed or hurt bad. Everyday they have to come up with something new to compete for the eyes on the screen or page and what sells is “new revelation” of dastardly deeds or incompetent failures.

2) Politics–politics is simply going to be involved in events of this magnitude. Elections are at stake. Lots of them. And this fact combined with the media blame game means all elected officials from the president to parish presidents are doing their absolute darndest to 1) avoid any of the blame game falling of them and 2) get credit for anything good that happens. In this case, BP provides a completely understandable foil for every political message related to those two point. So all the blame is going to fall on them, and all the credit will be assumed by others–and not much BP can do about it.

3) Ignorance of Unified Command–its clear that few in this country understand the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 that has been driving much of the response and communications, nor do they understand the National Incident Management System or Incident Command System and the Joint Information Center concept.This ignorance has led to some very stupid things being said by politicians, by the press and by pundits.

4) The industry everyone loves to hate. All the reputation studies show that the oil industry is near the bottom of the list in public trust. So every oil company executive starts every day in a deep reputation hole. This is of their own doing in many ways, but the fact is that public opinion is not favorable to fossil fuels and getting less favorable every day–even while we consume like crazy. It’s one thing if a candy company has a crisis, its quite another if an oil company does. By the way, only the media business has a lower trust rating–how ironic.

5) Toxic talk–this is the lack of civility and decency in our public discourse, so well documented by the recent WeberShandwick study. Over 50,000 people have submitted comments to the response and to BP through the response website and BP’s state response websites. A great many have been very very negative–a disconcerting number threaten violence. It’s a sad part of our culture but it contributes to an overall attitude of animosity, venom and cultural dis-ease.

6) It’s a very very bad event–this is undoubtedly the biggest reason. The fact is that oil continues to flow as it has for over two months. It is still not stopped and the threat to people, environment and wildlife continues to grow. People cannot understand how this can happen and why it can’t be stopped. It makes everyone furious and frustrated. So, whether you are at fault or not, if you stand up and say, we are responsible you are going to take the brunt of that anger and frustration. That’s far beyond any PR fix.

7) BP mistakes–yep, there have been a number. Mistakes of omission and commission. Avoidable mistakes and a lot of “spinning” of bad information and minor gaffes. But BP cannot avoid responsibility for their situation entirely. But, like Dezenhall suggests, it makes more sense when trying to analyze this for future crises, to consider the whole picture.

I once went to a doctor who advised me if I wanted to live long that I should pick my parents carefully. If BP, or any other company wants to protect its reputation, don’t dump gazillions of gallons of oil into any water.

Gulf Spill propels technology advances in crisis communication

The communicators involved in the Gulf Spill are aggressively using technology of all kinds to help get the story of the spill and response out. We’ve seen that, particularly earlier on with this event, with their use of social media. One of the biggest is the use of live video feeds. I commented on this today on emergencymgmt.com. It is a virtual certainty that any kind of major event, particularly anyone drawing the kind of media and political activity that this one has, will require a live video feed. It will either be provided by those involved, or citizens will find a way to offer it themselves.

As I mention in the emergency management blog, high quality video production just got a whole lot easier. Citizen journalists are suddenly equipped with what used to take a gazillion bucks and a Hollywood studio full of artists and technicians.

Another example of technology being used to help the public get information was just released today: the widget. Add it to any website and it will give you a real-time feed of the latest news, tweets and links from the deepwaterhorizonresponse.com website.

Give it a try. Not just because it kind of slick and cool and will help keep you better informed of what is going on with this event, but because it will give you an idea of what you will have to be able to plan and manage if you find yourself deep in it.

Washington Post and Dave Weigel teach lesson about emails

Dave Weigel, a blogger for the Washington Post lost his job today. No big story. He was hired as a conservative blogger (increasingly called journalists) because the Post was criticized by conservatives of not understanding their thinking. He was fired because its now quite clear that he didn’t think too much of some of the leading conservatives. A bigger deal, but still not such a big deal. His real attitude toward conservatives was revealed not so much in his official posts, but in private email conversation. Big deal.

Another Post blogger, and the one who set up the private email listserv from which the damaging emails were leaked, Ezra Klein, clearly feels badly for his friend. And in his blog he captures an interesting dilemma about internet communications–the feeling of privacy that belies the complete lack of privacy:

There’s a lot of faux-intimacy on the Web. Readers like that intimacy, or at least some of them do. But it’s dangerous. A newspaper column is public, and writers treat it as such. So too is a blog. But Twitter? It’s public, but it feels, somehow, looser, safer. Facebook is less public than Twitter, and feels even more intimate. A private e-mail list is not public, but it is electronically archived text, and it is protected only by a password field and the good will of the members. It’s easy to talk as if it’s private without considering the possibility, unlikely as it is, that it will one day become public.

Not long ago the Library of Congress announced it was archiving all Twitter conversations. Perhaps some future sociologist will find gold in the millions of conversations about sandwiches, lattes and bathroom breaks. Twitter, like email, feels private and protected, but it is not. Somehow those little arrangement of bits and bytes can be saved somewhere, shared in unexpected ways and come back to haunt you years later. Career counselors on university campuses have a big job today reminding students that what they put on Facebook may affect their careers in years ahead and in unsuspecting and distressing ways. We can be fully open, transparent and authentic on the Internet, but that may not be a good thing.

Added to this situation, and a critical part of it, is the cultural change in exposure. We hear now of journalists in the days of the Kennedy’s preserving private activities that today would be front page fodder and the subject of tens of thousands of posts and comments. Today, we would consider such a conspiracy of silence to be almost unamerican, a violation of our right to know, and for most a sign of unethical political partisanship on the part of journalists (citizen or professional) who have the info but refuse to share it. This culture of exposure is brilliantly explained in this column today in NYT by David Brooks.

We lost an American hero and perhaps a critical part of our war effort in Afghanistan when the Rolling Stone as a publication and the reporter who wrote the story on General McCrystal fully delivered on our cultural values. The ethos of brutal exposure was taken to new heights, or depths. Clearly the good General didn’t catch what should have been some obvious clues as to what his unthinking staff had gotten him into. But maybe he was too much into the corruption and disease in Afghan culture and politics that he missed the clues to our own corruption and disease.

I hope this sad episode and David Brook’s column help us all to think a little more about the direction we have been taking. This culture of exposure, of fault-finding, of demonizing for the purpose of political gain and attracting audiences is painfully obvious to me and I hope to you each day in the coverage of the Gulf spill. I am saddened by it, frustrated, and angry. We should expect more of our media, our politicians and ourselves.

In the meantime, understanding this culture of exposure, understanding that all discourse online today is permanent and completely shareable, the stories of Weigel and McCrystal should urge us to caution. Perhaps the age of transparency has come and gone. If so, I think I might miss it less than I earlier thought.

Are we tiring of "toxic talk?"

One of the most disturbing aspects of our culture to emerge with Internet communications and social media in particular is what I call “toxic talk.” That is the tendency of a very substantial portion of the Internet sub-culture to engage in conversation that is crude, lewd, venomous, bitter and disrespectful. I’ve blogged about it repeatedly and I have been surprised that more in our society are seemingly resigned to this unpleasant manifestation of this mode of communication.

Well, I was wrong. Although there has been surprisingly little discussion about it in the media, PR circles or sociological studies, WeberShandwick has corrected this failing. They published results of a survey on Civility in America (available on their website). This is a very important study. I am absolutely thrilled with the result that shows 94% of Americans consider this incivility a problem and 65% consider it a major problem. Perhaps more significantly, the public is turning away from those places including websites and social media sites where incivility is so strong. They are also turning away from the political discussions because of this high level of incivility.

I’ve observed at first hand the incredible animosity and foul language of so many who are expressing their opinion of the Gulf spill on the spill website (www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com) and the social media sites for the spill. In presentations recently to others about the spill communications, one of the lessons learned that is shocking to some is the incredibly high volume as well as hatred so vividly displayed. This toxic talk creates an atmosphere that brings all who observe and participate in it down.

I believe we can do something about this. First, by not participating in it ourselves, committing to respectful, cultured disagreement rather than gutter language and personal attacks. Second, by turning off the radio and tv programs that specialize in the angry, excessively partisan, hate-inspired language so evident on both left and right. Third, by letting those engaging in it know that you find it offensive (prepare to be offended twice as much). Fourth, by getting involved in what I hope is a growing movement to discourage toxic talk, like that conducted by www.civilination.com.

Goldman Sachs–what to do when in a deep hole

Thought it might be interesting to comment on the efforts of Goldman Sachs to dig out of their deep hole, while about to visit the command center for the spill in New Orleans.

Daily Dog says that Goldman is about to start a PR campaign and maybe even go on Oprah to help communicate what banks do.

One thing for certain, when you are in a deep hole you can be assured that every tiny effort to improve your status will be observed, reported, and attacked. Usually with exceptional venom. I’ve seen Daily Dog do that with regard to BP and the spill but they are not alone. Not sure why some PR publications seem to want to outdo the outrage. By the time such reporting hits the blogs and social media, the effort has been so twisted and trashed that it is hardly recognizable. Just a warning to you, Goldman.

On a tv program I was on with Peter Firestein, a crisis communication consultant with a book with the best title around: Crisis of Character, he said BP should just be quiet. I disagreed but have thought about it alot. Everything that is said is attacked, discredited, and in most cases, turned against them. Same may be true (to a lesser degree I would suggest) of Goldman. Should they just be quiet?

A few key principles I believe in and have promoted in my book and presentations:

1) Credibility is everything. You cannot exist in the public arena, in the marketplace, in the stock market, without it. But what if you completely and unutterably lose it? You must borrow it from those who have it. That is what I have suggested before. Goldman needs friends now, and it is not the only one. Friends trusted by many of its worst critics. Hard to do? Maybe, particularly as deep as some of these holes are, but absolutely necessary. Credibility must be restored and it is likely that few within Goldman will have the credibility needed to do the job, or can earn it by a PR campaign or a trip to the holy shrine of Oprah.

2) Don’t let lies stand. In the current situation I am observing and somewhat involved, I have seen countless lies propagated, many by the most mainstream of the mainstream. I call them lies but sometimes it is sloppy or ignorant reporting, sometimes especially vicious twists on the truth, sometimes repeats with added flavor of misinformation reported elsewhere. Many times the lies are not untrue, they just are presented in a way that does not represent reality. But I see little effort on Goldman’s part to counter what they may consider lies. A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. They cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. But, if you are the one without credibility or with it seriously damaged as in Goldman’s case, you are probably not the best one to challenge the lies. Someone, or some organization, with credibility must be found.

Short of those kinds of game changing, aggressive actions, perhaps it is best to just be silent.

What are the fifteen most hated companies in America?

I’ll bet you think you can name them. BP starts the list, right, Toyota, AT&T, maybe even Microsoft. Certainly WalMart.

Wrong. According to the analysis by 24/7 Wall Street, here are the 15 most hated:

1. AIG
2. United Airlines
3. Level 3
4. Hertz
5. Citigroup
6. K-Mart
7. Blackwater
8. Dell
9. Abercrombie & Fitch
10. Chrysler
11. Dish Network
12. Rite-Aid
13. Gibson
14. Forever 21
15. Sprint

This is a surprising list and you might wonder on what basis were they selected. Here is the explanation:

We evaluated each company based on five criteria.  First, employee impressions, using research firm Glassdoor and other services, were reviewed.  Second,  we considered total return to shareholders from these companies over one-year, two-year and five-year periods, compared to the broad market and other companies within the same sector. Several firms on our list are not public. Third, customer satisfaction numbers and reputation figures were analyzed from a broad array of sources, including Consumer Reports, JD Power, the MSN/Zogby poll, Vanno, and the University of Michigan American Customer Satisfaction Index were examined. Fourth, brand valuation changes were also reviewed based on data from Corebrands, Interbrand, and Brand Z.  Finally, the views of taxpayers, Congress and the Administration of these companies were considered where applicable.

For those in the crisis management field like me, you might think public or at least consumer attitudes would trump everything. But I think these guys have it right. This is a 360 degree view of the organization. What does it matter if customers love you but the shareholders don’t? And what if you are darling of Congress, but your employees think you stink? Taking all key stakeholders groups into consideration is something we PR folks need to do a lot more. Kudos to 24/7 Wall Street for this list. And good luck to each and everyone of you who find yourself on it.

Why media is so distrusted–and yet so believed

There have been well over a quarter of a million stories in the media (mainstream and new) about the Gulf spill. The vast majority of these have provided evidence for the very serious problems I have been complaining about for the past ten years.

I want to pick on just one story and see how it is covered as an example–not a particularly egregious example, but just one of thousands of similar examples every day!

(Again, full disclosure: BP, US Coast Guard, MMS and other agencies involved in this spill are clients through the company I founded, PIER System. PIER is the web management system used for the deepwaterhorizonresponse.com website. Perhaps this involvement affects my judgment about these matters–but look at the story themselves and make up your own mind.)

The story is this: Congressman Markey revealed that a previously unknown BP document revealed that the spill might release 100,000 barrels (4.2 million gallons) vs. the am0unt now estimated (60,000 barrels) and the original estimate of 1000 and later 5000 barrels. CNN last night on Don Lemon’s show told the story this way: BP knew that it was spilling 100,000 according to this document but instead lied and way under-estimated it. After two months of discrediting by the press, the president, the administration and every other politician who managed to get some air time, this new “news” was not going to surprise anyone. It was entirely believable–but was it true?

If you look a little closer at the news stories, things are not quite as they were presented by CNN. The CNN website report is far more careful than Lemon’s brief “headline news” reporting. This report shows that the referenced document was talking about a worst case scenario that might happen if the blowout preventer and the wellhead were removed. In other words, if all the equipment, pipes, and stuff down there were off and the well was left to spew without restriction, the maximum flow COULD BE 100,000 barrels.

The Reuters report on the same issue shows a different and important nuance: when the report was issued. CNN web report says this: A BP estimate made after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon noted that as much as 100,000 barrels per day could leak into the ocean… However, the Reuters report says the document is undated. I looked at the document, and I encourage you to do the same (find the link on the Reuters story).

Having some familiarity with the oil industry over the past ten years, there is little doubt in my mind that this is part of the planning for worst case scenarios for any problem with the well, and that it was prepared WELL BEFORE this event happened. Even if it was prepared after the event as CNN reported (without citing any evidence and in contradiction to the Reuters story), it still describes a scenario that currently does not apply to the event.

Now, let’s take a look at what one of our esteemed elected officials says about this, Congressman Markey. Please note that he was given the incredibly powerful bully pulpit of NBC’s Meet the Press to make these statements based on the “evidence” he uncovered:

“It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill. Now the families living and working in the Gulf are suffering from their incompetence,” he added.

“Right from the beginning, BP was either lying or grossly incompetent,” Markey told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “First they said it was only 1,000 barrels, then they said it was 5,000 barrels.”

This is an extreme characterization based, in my opinion, on two big lies: 1) Any estimates about the spill volume came from Unified Command, not BP. The insistence by the media that it was BP providing the spill volumes shows a complete ignorance of the Unified Command structure. This structure, required by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, was implemented in the hours after the event. Any information released after Unified Command was implemented was approved by Unified Command which consisted of all agencies responding including Coast Guard, NOAA, EPA, state agencies, etc. While BP may have provided the technical information at that time, it was Unified Command that was responsible for accepting that information and providing it as the best estimate. It is important to remember that initially the platform was still there, and initially the riser or pipe leading from the blowout preventer was kinked. The wellhead was not bare, the blowout preventer was there, the equipment restricting the flow was there. The initial estimate was based on the best information available at the time.

The second lie is that by digging up technical documents that describe conditions that do not apply, that were most likely provided well in advance, and that instead show that BP was realistically assessing conditions were worst case scenario might apply, and to use that to say they are lying is extremely dishonest. It is Congressman Markey, clearly one of about 500 or so national legislators right now trying to make as much political hay as they can out of this disaster, who is lying, not BP and, more importantly, not Unified Command who remains responsible for estimating spill volumes.

(Later add: it’s interesting the way the LA Times dealt with this story–there is just a hint that maybe it was Markey who was incompetent and out of line here, and note the headline about politicians making waves.)

I described in my book, Now Is Too Late, now nearly 10 years old, how enterprising politicians, looking to leverage off public fear and outrage work in concert with the press. The press is fighting for audience. CNN leads its newscast last night with another story of how BP is evil incarnate. And it is “proven” by this Congressman who wants to show his constituents how tough he is on this horrible company.

Does this kind of thing tick me off? Sure, and not just because my clients are being harmed by it. It should tick off every American who is interested in the truth and what is fair and right. As I mentioned, this isn’t an isolated example–this is what is happening every day. BP and to some degree MMS and other federal agencies, including the president, are victims of it today. I am as sickened by how Fox News is trying to pin this event on the president as I am by the kind of coverage and political attacks that I described above. But this is our system, folks. We have it because apparently we want it. They deliver the news we want because the ratings tell them all they need to know.

I’ve made numerous presentations to other oil companies in the last few weeks. I point out to them that they, like BP, start out a horrible event like this in a deep deep hole. They do not have the trust of the public. In fact, I point out that there is only one industry that has less public trust. Ironically, it is the media business. If Congress were considered an industry, I’m guessing they would be even lower than that.

Pre-emptive strike regarding upcoming blog story

I’ve been interviewed by a major political blog about the Gulf Spill communications and have become a little nervous about how the story as it evolves keeps taking unexpected twists. So this is a sort of public pre-emptive strike in case I feel that I have been misquoted or that I might have mis-communicated my intentions.

The issue is about the growing independence of BP in the communications about the event. It is now quite common knowledge that BP was uninvited from an active role in the Joint Information Center and since about June 4, it has not participated in joint press conferences. In fact, there aren’t joint press conferences. There are BP press briefings but Admiral Allen stands alone on the podium for Unified Command press conferences. I understand the reasons for this and they may be valid and this may be necessary and I won’t judge whether it is good or bad.

And let’s be clear–Unified Command continues on, the partnership exists in the response. It just no longer exists in the public communication about the response.

But my point is this–what does this mean for the National Incident Management System that still mandates collaborative response? What does this do for OPA 90 where ICS and the JIC were a requirement for an effective response and effective communication? Will the Gulf Spill mean that agencies won’t cooperate–particularly when the media blame game is as rampant as it is here and the political reaction is to throw anyone else under the bus? BP is doing nothing wrong, illegal, or unexpected. The first variance away from the JIC came from federal agencies, not BP. They began aggressive and independent communication about the spill and response long before BP started going its own way. But when every JIC release is primarily about the antagonism between the federal government and BP, it is both right, fair and understandable for the JIC to no longer operate as it has for 20 years.

I just hope the blog writing on this gets it right.

Gulf Spill Enters New Phase

In the past few days, the media and the public have begun to show a weariness with the Gulf Spill. In a time when stories come and go like the spring sun between our incessant showers, and the media shows interest only in what is happening right now, the public attention on this event has been phenomenal. Certainly a tribute to the scope and magnitude of the event as well as nothing more major pushing the story off the front page (whoa, that’s an anachronism, isn’t it?).

Web traffic is beginning to decline after it seemed almost every day was reaching new peaks in either visits or data transfer. Other news stories are starting the nightly news casts and images other than oil on beaches or pelicans are on front pages.

Is the communication job done? Hardly. In many ways the real work begins. BP launched shortly after the event a very impressive community relations effort throughout the gulf region. It would have been impressive in any event of anywhere near normal scope, but the dozens of quality people they have out meeting with the communities, individuals, elected officials etc. were dwarfed by the news stories and the sheer massiveness of the event. But that kind of one to one, person to person, company to community is where the real action will be in the immediate and much longer term future.

In the meantime, the political and now geo-political melodrama goes on. The president’s critics are do all they can to pin this event on the president. For every tail they wish to pin on him, he deftly dodges it and the pin sticks deeply into BP’s backside. He has found the ass he’s been looking for and is kicking it vigorously.

What is increasingly interesting is the way this is playing in the UK. New British Prime Minister Cameron is coming under increasing heat for not standing up to President Obama as he daily does his best to destroy what little reputation BP might have had left–called “vengeful posturing” in UK media. The cost for a great many in Britain is great.The $10b BP pays in dividends goes largely to pensioners so that 1/8 of all pounds paid out in pensions come from BP’s stock. There is no question, no question at all, that as much of a mess that BP is in, it has been made much worse by the presidential politics attempting to avoid the mud of Katrina. For those who want to blame Bush for everything, it might be fair to blame Bush for much of BP’s woes, for if the federal response to Katrina might have been better or at least less criticized, the current administration would not be so desperate to pin the tail on that BP donkey. The effort to avoid blame has casued the nation to lose all confidence–not only in BP but also in the response overall.

So I expect two additional things to happen with communication on the spill. The rhetoric will begin to tone down, for two reasons. One is that I have little doubt that already the president is facing some backroom discussions about the wisdom of forcing BP to suspend dividends and the impact this will have on cross-Atlantic relations. Second, with the federal government holding the boot on the neck of BP for so long, they are going to have to start assuming some level of public responsibility for their posturing. That means (and I am seeing some of this already) they are going to have to start telling what a good job they are doing–in everything from stopping the spill to getting claims paid. Yes, they will take full credit, as they are doing now for everything that BP or the response does, but the message will change.

I’ve been amazed that despite the political polarization in our major media, they have all essentially followed the same line. It’s been fascinating to watch the media blame game played new everyday (today it is the New York Times saying the response is chaotic) followed by a response from the administration, unfortunately using the Joint Information Center, to respond with a political message, followed by media reports on the president’s response, followed by new accusations. I certainly have wearied of this tiresome game and I think most less-interested observers have as well. I welcome this phase, at least as I hope it will play out.

Relief.

T. Boone Pickens and Arnold Schwarzenegger–cures for what ails us

I watched T. Boone Pickens on Larry King last night talking about the spill. About the first reasonable perspective I have seen given any air time on this event. Larry asked him about the oil that BP was capturing from the well through the containment device and if BP was making a profit on that oil. Pickens looked at him like “are you out of your pea picking mind?” Of course BP isn’t making money on the spill given the millions it is costing them every day. To be fair, I think Pickens missed the point of the question–I think Larry meant to ask if the oil being captured was being sold or processed and how much money was involved in that.

Pickens appearance reminded me that what this event needs is Arnold Schwarzenegger. I recall when California was facing big wildfires the media starting doing their regular and expected thing. They found someone disgruntled with the fire department and accused them of having a bunch of aircraft sitting on the ground not doing anything. Truth was they were temporarily restrained due to high winds. But instead of letting the media get by with the blame game and building a head of steam around the all-too-expected failure to respond story, the Governor took them head on. He was angry, he was direct. I don’t recall the exact statement but it was to the effect that anyone who suggests we are not doing everything we possibly can is ignorant or a liar and he won’t put up with it. He all but called them girly-men.

That is one thing that is desperately needed in this response–Pickens came the closest I have seen to showing disgust for how this event is being treated politically and in the media. The truth is the response is being conducted on an unprecedented scale. The technology, the brain power, the dedication, the effort is just incredible. And despite the terrible circumstances, battles are being won every day. But that is a story no media outlet fighting for its life can afford to tell.

Someone needs to tell Anderson Cooper that he is being far from honest, letting alone keeping anyone else honest. Someone needs to tell the NYT who almost daily comes up with some angle to say BP is being dishonest about this or that they should see that the news that is fit to print includes the heroic effort going on right now by some terrific people doing their very best. Someone needs to stand up and say all those who see in this event only the opportunity to grab viewers and place blame are, well, just girly-men.