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Oil and Water - Media Lessons from Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Oil and Water

Media Lessons from Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

By Andrea Miller, Shearon Roberts, and Victoria Lapoe
Hardcover : 9781617039720, 192 pages, 4 b&w images, April 2014
Paperback : 9781496804648, 210 pages, 4 b&w images, July 2015

How the media handled coverage and shaped understanding of two massive and ongoing catastrophes


Along the Gulf Coast, history is often referenced as pre-Katrina or post-Katrina. However, the natural disaster that appalled the world in 2005 has been joined by another catastrophe, this one man-made—the greatest environmental and maritime accident of all time, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. In less than five years, the Gulf Coast has experienced two colossal disasters, very different, yet very similar. And these two equally complex crises have resulted in a steep learning curve for all, but especially the journalists covering these enduring stories.

In Oil and Water, the authors explore the media-fed experiences, the visuals and narratives associated with both disasters. Katrina journalists have reluctantly had to transform into oil spill journalists. The authors look at this process of growth from the viewpoints not only of the journalists, but also of the public and of the scientific community. Through a detailed analysis of the journalists' content, the authors tackle significant questions. This book assesses the quality of journalism and the effects that quality may have on the public. The authors argue that regardless of the type of journalism involved or the immensity of the events covered, successful reportage still depends on the fundamentals of journalism and the importance of following these tenets consistently in a crisis atmosphere, especially when confronted with enduring crises that are just years apart.


"Oil and Water describes in depth and detail what has happened to the media in Louisiana. But it's more than that. It's a microcosm of what has happened in every community in America."

- Jack Zibluk, Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies

"Oil and Water takes a sharp look at disaster reporting and examines the multitude of local and national coverage following Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. It's an essential read for both journalists and consumers to get a better understanding of journalism amid crisis."

- Michelle Miller, CBS News correspondent and former anchor at WWL-TV in New Orleans

"The must-read book before parachuting off to the next disaster scene—even for the most seasoned network news veteran. Oil and Water wades into disaster reporting that ranged from the shallow to the deep and emerges with a cohesive chronicle of the media chaos following Katrina. The authors also carefully compare and contrast how two of the worst disasters to hit the Gulf Coast produced some of this country's best local journalism—ever."

- Donna Dees-Thomases, author of Looking for a Few Good Moms: How One Mom Rallied a Million Others against the Gun Lobby and former communications director at CBS News and The Late Show with David Letterman

"The authors have penned a thought-provoking commentary on contemporary journalism and its role in the evolving genre of 'disaster reporting.' Louisianans know better than most about national and man-made disasters; Oil and Water reminds us of the sometimes disproportionate impact the media has on how perceptions are shaped."

- Jay Dardenne, Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana