On Wednesday, the Associated Press (AP) announced the appointment of former Jerusalem bureau chief Steve Gutkin as their new “Oil Spill Editor.” According to a memo sent to AP staff and released to the Poynter Institute:
The Gulf Oil spill has been an enormous journalistic challenge. A sprawling story, much of it occurring literally out of sight beneath the water. Every day AP journalists in every format have risen to the story and kept us well ahead. It is now clear this story will be with us, and with the people of the Gulf Coast, for a good long time to come.
So we are taking steps to set up for this long haul. The first is the appointment today of an Oil Spill Editor to supervise the coverage and to keep us thinking of new and creative ways to cover this continuing and continually important story.
What does this say to communicators about how the news media is approaching the growing disaster in the Gulf? Well, if you’re pitching reporters about energy and/or environmental issues, you may need to take a number.
AP’s announcement illustrates that news outlets are expecting the oil spill coverage to continue for a very long time. Creating a dedicated editorial position to oversee content demonstrates their belief that the story will become bigger and more complicated as time goes on. Their decision also indicates that outlets are seeing such interest in the story from readers, viewers and listeners that they will invest in creating new roles and expanding coverage to meet that demand.Bottom line: reporters, bloggers and producers covering energy and environmental issues will be covering the oil spill recovery and aftermath for the foreseeable future. To get your story out there, get creative and find a way to tastefully— and accurately — connect your story to the oil spill news bandwagon. Remember that this disaster is an environmental AND human catastrophe when developing your oil spill-related story angles. Be prepared that other beats, such as politics, food and agriculture, and health, will also be looking for fresh takes connecting their subjects to the Gulf Coast oil spill.