Over the weekend, the New York Times published a comprehensive overview of exactly what went wrong leading up to — and through — the blowout and destruction of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which led to the massive BP oil spill that dominated the news over the summer. The project was striking in its depth and breadth, including helpful diagrams and frightening photos. It was also a poignant reminder of the human toll that the incident extracted, long before the publicity about the environmental damage took over the public imagination. It was impressive, but not to AP reporter Harry Weber. "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," he wrote in a letter published today by Romenesko. "But the Times doesn’t own the history books."
From Weber's letter:
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.
We've been having trouble getting through to anyone at the Times today for comment (no surprise there on a day like today!) but will let you know what they have to say about it. In the meantime, whatever the response, this is regardless representative of an old struggle: The Times does beautiful presentations, lovely graphics, and long-form reporting better than any wire service has the opportunity to do. But the wire-service reporters toil day to day to bring you breaking stories you often don't even realize come from them. At the end of such a thrilling news year, it's no wonder the frustration over a lack of recognition would bubble to the surface.