t's been almost two months since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, releasing a gush of oil into the Gulf of Mexico that's flowing at a rate of up to 60,000 barrels a day. As the weeks go by, writes Tom Shales in The Washington Post, the television media has been forced to "deploy the techniques of showmanship" to stave off viewer fatigue over the seemingly endless saga. Perhaps that's how debate on this environmental disaster came to be a referendum on Obama's leadership, suggests Shales. When "the press goes hunting for a new angle, even hero-worshiped presidents had better watch their tails." An excerpt:
"Coverage of the BP oil spill has certainly reached marathon status, the kind of thing still likely to lead on the evening newscasts — so likely that the networks risk evoking "oh not that again" reactions from viewers. It's an unhappy fact of TV news life: the bigger the story's significance, the longer it rules the newscasts — and the greater the danger the public will tune out.
To keep the story interesting — and thus fertilizing to the Nielsens — TV news turns it into another story, or several other stories, with the gulf spill reduced to background, the same way pictures of oil-covered water become mere backdrops to the shocked correspondents who speak feverishly in the foreground. And so it is, too, that the spill has become another chapter in the Saga O'bama, with yet more score-keeping of how the president is doing, and what impression he is making in this impression-crazed culture."
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