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Tuesday September 30th 2014

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Outtakes #5: How Do You Like Us Now

Rick-thumb1
Last year, Escambia County Commissioner Wilson Robertson blasted the local media declaring we were the worst enemy of the county. Most of his ire was directed at the Pensacola News Journal for their coverage of his alleged involvement in the personnel decisions at the county’s equestrian center, but we were also included.

For a politician to dislike being criticized isn’t unusual. It’s something I hear on a regular basis, usually depending on who we named a “loser” that week. However, the District 1 commissioner took it a step further when he blasted the media for its coverage of the 2010 BP oil disaster that killed 11 men and spewed 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Commissioner Robertson called our coverage “the worst media coverage of a disaster that I’ve seen in my life.”

I have been very proud of our coverage of the BP disaster. What we published in the Independent News, my blog and on The Daily Beast garnered international attention and praise. We figured out the tactics of the BP “spin machine” early and exposed its misinformation regularly. We spent countless hours tracking down leads as we tried to hold them accountable.

Why? Because we suspected the British oil giant would not live up to its commitments, and we wanted to be sure that Escambia County didn’t get ignored.

Three years later, we have seen BP try to back out of its promises to help those damaged by its disaster. However, Escambia County hasn’t been left out of the environmental restoration funds.

On Nov. 14, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced the funding of $15.7 million for six Florida projects that address high priority conservation needs. The projects, developed in consultation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and federal resource agencies, were specifically designed to remedy harm or reduce the risk of future harm to natural resources that were affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The City of Pensacola was included among those projects and was awarded $2.1 million from the NFWF Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for the Government Street Regional Stormwater Pond at Corrine Jones Park.

As BP pays its fines, which may total in the billions, Pensacola and Escambia County will be sure to get their fair share. I believe we—the local media—deserve some of the credit.

Journalism isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about fighting for your community—all of it. If that upsets a politician, then so be it.