College Media

There will be oil: college media covers the BP disaster

Mashable highlights this neat (in a sickening sort of way) web site: Instant Oil Spill, that allows you to cause an oil spill on any web site. (check out the video above for an example of oil spilling all over the ICM front page). Mashable points out that this is one of the ways the Internet is being used to highlight the effects of the oil catastrophe and what’s being done to ensure it isn’t forgotten in the 24/7 news cycle.

I’ve been visiting my parents in Beaumont, Texas, over the past week, and the underwater oil gusher is a top topic of conversation, even though the leaked oil hasn’t really affected the Texas Gulf coast yet.

Meanwhile, oil containment efforts continue in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and parts of Florida.

It’s a story of a generation (maybe more). A casual trip through the web to a few student newspaper web sites shows that so far, not a lot is happening coverage-wise. The best coverage I found comes from LSU’s Daily Reveille. They have daily coverage of the spill that they are updating using CoverItLive.

The Auburn Plainsman has been publishing articles (like this one about Auburn researchers discussing oil dispersants, and this one with suggestions of ways to help out on the coast). Southern Miss.’s Student Printz also has an oil spill story. The Kaleidoscope at UA-Birmingham has a story about the impact on Alabama. I suspect more school newspapers will begin covering the spill as school gets back into session. I hope more schools along the coast will devote resources to this developing story.

A couple of suggestions for student news outlets who are going to be covering the oil disaster with any regularity:

First, follow the Reveille’s example and create a dedicated landing page (“section” if you want to use newspaper speak) where a viewer can go to find all of the news, instead of having to use a search box or pick through the stories about local news about Blockbuster video stores closing, etc. Check out for another example.

Second, if you’re going to write about organizations who are helping with the cleanup, or organizations people can contact to contribute money or time to the effort, provide hyperlinks to the organizations’ web sites! This is the Internet, not your newspaper. You can make a word link to another web site. Do it.

Finally, this is just a nit I’m picking, but it’s one of those word geek things: This is not an oil “spill,” even though Instant Oil Spill uses the word in its name. An oil spill happens when the oil is in a container. The Exxon Valdez tragedy was a “spill.” When a pipe bursts in your house, you don’t say you had a sewer “spill.” You call it what it is. So be precise in your terminology. This is an oil gusher. An oil leak.

And for some really detailed technical discussion of the oil disaster, I highly recommend The Oil Drum. Normally, the site focuses on “peak oil,” (Wikipedia link), but since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, they’ve been keeping a running discussion of the technical issues involved with capping the well.

As always, if you know of other school news outlets that are providing coverage, mention them in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail at scmurley -at-