Associated Press oil spill reporter Harry Weber says of the New York Times’ Sunday “Deepwater Horizon’s Final Hours” story: “Their key assertions that the destruction of the Horizon ‘has escaped intense scrutiny’ and that the final hours are only now possible to piece together are patently false. …A dozen different AP staffers as early as May have done numerous spot, enterprise and investigative reconstruct pieces on every element in the Times story, plus many they didn’t focus on.”
From: Weber, Harry
Subject: Times story
Journalistically speaking, this has been the most incredible year of my life. I almost wish it didn’t have to end in five days _ so I could savor it with all of my talented colleagues at the AP for a while longer.
Most of all, I wish it wouldn’t end because I fear that once it does end amnesia will set in among the American public, and even some of our own top managers, and people will forget just how incredible the AP did on the Gulf oil spill story _ from public service, to breaking news, to investigative work to photography to video to multimedia.
The New York Times is counting on that amnesia.
Today, the Times published a 5,000 word reconstruct on the disaster, some eight months after the fact. In their nut graf, they assert that “this was a disaster with two distinct parts — first a blowout, then the destruction of the Horizon. The second part, which killed 11 people and injured dozens, has escaped intense scrutiny, as if it were an inevitable casualty of the blowout. It was not.”
They go on to assert that their story “based on interviews with 21 Horizon crew members and on sworn testimony and written statements from nearly all of the other 94 people who escaped the rig” along with thousands of documents “obtained by The New York Times describing the rig’s maintenance and operations make it possible to finally piece together the Horizon’s last hours.”
There’s just one problem, of course: Their key assertions that the destruction of the Horizon “has escaped intense scrutiny” and that the final hours are only now possible to piece together are patently false.
More importantly, the documents they refer to, from my reading of the story, are a compilation of documents released during the USCG-BOEM investigative hearings and other records AP long ago reported on. They also assert they have “newly uncovered images” of the disaster that bolster their point.
A dozen different AP staffers as early as May have done numerous spot, enterprise and investigative reconstruct pieces on every element in the Times story, plus many they didn’t focus on. The AP has aggressively and repeatedly scrutinized the subject in all media platforms. As for the images they included from a person on a “nearby boat” _ that is the most laughable. We had more than 100 exclusive images provided to us by the crew of the Joe Griffin, which helped fight the fire, in early May.
The timing of the Times story is interesting _ six days before the end of the calendar year. It seems to me they want to have the last word of the year on the oil spill, perhaps as a nod to the Pulitzer board in hopes the board has a bout of amnesia too. But the Times doesn’t own the history books.
My hope for the new year is that we don’t let people forget about what the AP did in 2010.