Day after day there’s been an endless gusher of news reports about the BP oil spill, and in general, journalists have done a good job. They’ve covered many angles, especially the impact on wetlands wildlife and on the people of the fisheries industry. (And those photos of oil-stricken pelicans have helped focus attention on the immensity of the crisis.)
To be sure, not all the coverage has been adequate. There’s been far too much focus on what this means for Obama’s popularity and image, although that’s a natural question to ask. News media failed to clarify exactly who and what was the source for those initial underestimates of the oil flow, and failed to keep pressing BP for enough updates about its various capping attempts (which might have revealed that at one point BP had stopped the attempt without telling the public). Some journalists gave too much play to politically-motivated claims, including those by Palin and her ilk that BP had had to drill deep because the mean old environmentalists pressured them against “safer,” more shallow drilling.
But in general journalists have worked hard to keep us informed on the most important news developments. Now it’s time for news media to focus more on the policy implications. The New York Times had a good editorial Saturday on the need for the Senate to stop delaying and pass the comprehensive energy bill. This oil spill is a terrible tragedy, and there probably is no silver lining, but at least it could be a wake-up call, and journalists should take advantage of the enormous public interest in it to focus more on policy. News media should create a forum for an intelligent, reasoned debate on where we go from here with our energy policy. They should tell us what enlightened policy experts are saying about what we need to do, at last, once and for all, to drastically cut back on dependence on oil.