The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: News Media Fantasy versus Reality Essay

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: News Media Fantasy versus Reality Essay

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The purpose of this research paper was to investigate the news media’s depiction of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The coverage provided by the newspapers was compared to that of scientific journals to access their validity and insight. The reactions the coverage evoked on the public were also studied. The paper specifically addressed the media’s portrayal of the oil company versus that of environmental groups. It was found that the news media did not include the benefits the oil company had had on the people and economy of Alaska. It was also found that up until 1989, many Alaskans were opposed to environmental groups. Next, the paper followed the role the media played on the public’s emotions and subsequent government policy. In addition, the use of exaggerated statistics in the wake of the spill are examined and corrected. Finally, the debate over the recovery of the area is tackled. And while the debate remains open, the apparent discrepancies in data are discussed.
On March 27, 1989 the supertanker Exxon Valdez ran ashore in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling approximately 11 million gallons of crude oil. The oil soon spread into the waters of south-central Alaska from the sound of Kodiak Island to the Kenai Peninsula (refer to Figure 1 for a map of the area). Almost immediately, news media arrived at the site reporting images of oil-stained beaches and wildlife to the masses. News coverage centered around the environmental devastation which would result from the spill. The coverage, for the most part, reinforced stereotypes of Alaska, as a pristine wilderness and Exxon as a greedy, irresponsible oil company. These images stressed the negative consequences of the spills and ignored ...

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...nd, Alaska. The Condor 102 (4), 723-737.

Lance, B. K., Irons, D. B., Kendall, S. J., and McDonald, L. L. (2001) An evaluation of
marine bird population trends following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Prine William Sound, Alaska. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42 (4) 298-309.

Leo, Roger. “Spill is a Slipery Subject; Ten Years Later, Exxon Won’t Admit the Disaster Continues.” Worcester Telegram & Gazette [Worester, MA.] 28 March 1999: D12.

Leo, Roger. “Still Paying Price for Exxon Spill; Some Species Continue to Suffer.”Worcester Telegram & Gazette [Worester, MA.] 30 April 2000: D9

Shabecoff, Philip. “U.S. Asks Exxon for $20 Million to Access Spill Damage in Alaska.”New York Times [New York] 18 January 1990: B4.

Wiens, J. A. (1996) Oil, seabirds, and science: the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. BioScience 46 (8) 587-598.

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