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Jul-01-2010 15:52printcomments

Gulf Oil Spill Story Revised Months After Publication

For Gulf coast residents, I hope that FEMA or some other government agency, in fact, has plans to evacuate those individuals with respiratory problems, if there’s a need to burn crude oil in Tampa Bay.

The gulf oil spill weighing down wild life
The gulf oil spill weighing down wild life

(TAMPA, Fla.) - Writing a news story on the Gulf oil spill can cost a reporter some sleep, even when the news story is not “Breaking News.”

Maryann Tobin’s news story, “Florida Gulf Oil Spill: Plans to Evacuate Tampa Bay in Place” was pulled by the Examiner yesterday.

I had used Tobin’s news story as a source in an article published this week on Salem-News.com (Salem, OR) and VeteransToday.com.

Neither stories are candidates for the Pulitzer prize, nor would either qualify for “Breaking News” on CNN or Fox.

However, there’s a very high reader interest in Gulf oil news stories.  The latest count of reader views of my VeteransToday.com story of the FEMA plan to evacuate the Tampa Bay area showed 112,705 views and 145 reader comments as of July 1st.

However, it appears that either BP, FEMA, the Coast Guard or another government agency wanted the Examiner to revise Tobin’s story. 

Today, I noticed that a modified version, “Florida Gulf oil spill: Plans to evacuate some in Tampa Bay is suggested possibility“ was published in place of the original version published over two months ago.

The Examiner today said  that “the article has since been clarified to explain that the alleged plans were not independently confirmed and referred only to some people with respiratory problems along the coast in the event of controlled burns.“

“The information in the article came from an OilPrice.com report stating that “there are plans to evacuate people with respiratory problems, especially those among the retired senior population along the west coast of Florida, before officials begin burning surface oil near the coastline.” No one ever suggested that the entire Tampa Bay area be evacuated. 

Maryann Tobin has written a series of hard hitting news stories for the Examiner on the BP Gulf oil spill for several weeks.  According to Tobin’s bio, she  has twenty years experience as a journalist in New York and Florida.  One thing is for sure, she has to be productive to make a buck in writing stories for the Examiner.  Based on my readings, she has been both productive and effective in telling the BP oil spill story.

The Examiner, based in Denver, CO, operates a network of news websites, allowing citizen journalists to share their knowledge on a blog-like platform in several hundred markets in the United States and Canada. Tobin is based in Brooksville, Florida, about 50 miles north of Tampa, where any story on the impact of the BP Gulf spill gets readers’ attention.

Writing for the Examiner is a tough way to make a living. The Washington Post in a story entitled,  “The Examiner.com Now Wants to Become A Bastion Of Citizen Journalism,” reported that “writers are vetted and paid based on how many page views and advertising clicks their articles can produce.

Both Tobin’s story and my article reported that FEMA has plans to evacuate the Tampa Bay area in the event of a controlled burn of surface oil in the Gulf of Mexico, or if wind or other conditions were expected to take toxic fumes through Tampa Bay.   Earlier this week, I had written an article for VeteransToday.com on the same subject, citing Tobin’s news story as my source.   “FEMA Plans to Evacuate Tampa Bay Area In Place?”  Tobin cited Oil Price.com’s Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) of May 6st as the source for her  story .

WMR reported, “Emergency preparations in dealing with the expanding oil menace are now being made for cities and towns from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Houston, New Orleans, Gulfport, Mobile, Pensacola, Tampa-St.Petersburg-Clearwater[my emphasis], Sarasota-Bradenton, Naples, and Key West. Some 36 FEMA-funded contracts between cities, towns, and counties and emergency workers are due to be invoked within days, if not hours, according to WMR’s FEMA sources [my emphasis].”

WMR concluded that, “There are plans to evacuate people with respiratory problems, especially those among the retired senior population along the west coast of Florida, before officials begin burning surface oil as it begins to near the coastline.”

It’s incomprehensible to me that FEMA or any other government agencies would not have planned for an orderly evacuation of those with respiratory problems if the toxic smoke from a BP burn-off was planned for Tampa Bay or any other Gulf coast community. Crude oil and dispersants contain dangerous toxic chemicals.

Dr. Kathy Burns, a toxicologist, in “Gulf Oil Spill Hazards” wrote that, “Crude oil contains hundreds of chemicals, many of them known to be toxic to people.”  Many of these chemicals are volatile, moving from the oil to the air and therefore can reach people many miles from the spill.

Based on the statistics, there’s a very high reader interest in Gulf oil news stories.  The latest count of reader views of my VeteransToday.com story of the FEMA plan to evacuate the Tampa Bay area showed 112,705 views and 145 reader comments as of July 1st.


Why pull and revise Tobin’s FEMA story two months after it was published?  Did BP or FEMA or the Coast Guard pressure the Examiner to withdraw/revise Tobin’s news story?  I don’t know.  But, it’s a good bet that someone pressured the Examiner to pull a two month old news story.  

One Florida resident emailed me this week to say that she had called the Coast Guard to find out more information about the plan to evacuate Tampa Bay, if there was need for BP to burn-off crude oil.  She was told there was no such plan and the Coast Guard was trying to locate the source of the rumor.

If FEMA has not planned for this event, then why not issue a Press Release denying the story?

For Gulf coast residents, I hope that FEMA or some other government agency, in fact, has plans to evacuate those individuals with respiratory problems, if there’s a need to burn crude oil in Tampa Bay. To do nothing exposes people to an unacceptable health risk.  There’s no question that Tobin’s news report was based on the May 6st WMR’s news story.  If the government believes that this is a rumor, then we surely are in trouble.


Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. This subject is where Bob intersected with Salem-News.com. Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. El Toro, a Superfund site, was closed in ’99, and most of the former base sold by the Navy at a public auction in ’05. The base is highly contaminated with organic solvents like trichloroethelyne (TCE) and other chemicals of concern. No veteran, dependent or civilian employee was informed of their possible exposure to toxic chemicals and their health effects. You can email Bob O’Dowd, Salem-News.com Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address: mwsg37.com. You can email Bob O’Dowd, Salem-News.com Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address: consults03@comcast.net




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OliverLeann June 22, 2011 1:48 pm (Pacific time)

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