The irony of today's PopTort is palpable. In 2011, Politico ran a story headlined, “Public opinion of media never worse.” In a seeming attempt to enlighten us as to what might generate such distrust, (as explained by Erik Wemple in his Washington Post blog),
Geoff Morrell is senior vice president of U.S. communications and external affairs for BP, and his Tuesday Politico Magazine piece is titled “No, BP Didn’t Ruin the Gulf.” It lists the various ways in which the Gulf Coast has thrived in the four years since the spill: “Last year, for example, recreational fishermen caught more pounds of fish than in nearly 30 years, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” writes Morrell. “The oil didn’t make it to Tampa — let alone the beaches of Normandy. Gulf shrimp landings didn’t take ‘generations’ to rebound. They quickly returned to pre-spill levels. And crowds have flocked to the Gulf, setting tourism records every year since the spill.”
Free native advertising, in other words.
Incredibly, as described by Think Progress,
When Politico ran an article last year titled “What BP Owes America,” a big disclaimer was scrolled across the top of the piece: “Opinion.” The article, written by the President of the National Audubon Society, argued that BP needed to take more responsibility for the devastating environmental effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
When Politico Magazine ran an article on Wednesday titled “No, BP Didn’t Ruin The Gulf,” there was no disclaimer. The article, written by an executive of BP, argued that the Gulf of Mexico has “inherent resilience” when it comes to oil spills and that environmentalists are overreacting about its impacts.
In addition to lacking a disclaimer, the article did not disclose that the article was written by BP senior vice president of communications Geoff Morrell until the bottom of the piece. So, to an objective observer, the article looks, on its face, like a regular piece of journalism, written by a journalist employed by Politico Magazine.
Here are some other entertaining headlines inspired by this journalistic "lapse":
Or this from the Huffington Post: BP's Damage To The Gulf Of Mexico Has Been Wildly Exaggerated, Says BP Flack In Politico Magazine
Then there was this concise tweet from Huff Po business writer Ben Walsh,
“*This post is the first in a series called “No, we didn’t ruin that thing, written by the company that ruined that thing”*”
Wonder what’s going on at Politico? Here’s more than a hint, again from Erik Wemple:
Words favoring BP’s position on Deepwater damage claims have some history in Rosslyn. As this blog pointed out last year, BP frequently sponsored Mike Allen’s phenomenal “Playbook” and often drew favorable free mentions from Allen within the expansive four corners of the daily newsletter.
Indeed, noted Eric Wemple last year:
Another big name that’s gotten a healthy dose of earned media from Playbook is BP, a company that has faced quite a challenge in image-conscious Washington, thanks to the 2010 oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by the company. In recent months, BP has blanketed “Playbook” with ads hyping the company’s status as “America’s largest energy investor.” The free BP mentions authored by Allen tell a similar story.
Last June, for instance, Allen found newsworthy an AP story about a BP campaign to challenge settlement claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The item quoted from a full-page ad that the company had placed in newspapers, and that the AP story had cited. It also included a link to the ad.
Companies love it when their ads get passed around.
As to the accuracy of Morrell’s piece, it isn’t. Notes Huffington Post,
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reported in September that "commercial catches for several varieties of seafood have decreased since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill." A study published in the July 2014 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that "the footprint of the impact of the spill on coral communities is both deeper and wider than previous data indicated." In April, the National Wildlife Federation released a study that attested to the continuing harm being done to key Gulf region species by the oil spill, including dolphins and Atlantic bluefin tuna. (This is something of a recurring theme among those who study the Gulf's wildlife.) On the coast itself, the oil spill continues to foster accelerated erosion. And tarballs containing material from the Deepwater Horizon spill continue to find their way ashore.
Finally, adds Huff Po,
That's just one of many documented examples of the tidy BP-Politico synergy that Morrell has procured. "'This Town,' the defining political book of 2013, notes that Allen and Morrell are close friends," writes Wemple, referring to the best-seller by Mark Leibovich. "And close friends help each other in business."
Today's Playbook sponsor, by the way? It's BP. Sweet and crude.
Today's as well. I used to like Mike Allen, you know?