The BP Baker Report–another example of headlines not matching content

January 16, 2007

Anyone who deals with the media recognizes that it is a common situation to have the headlines, and sometimes lead paragraphs, differ from the story. Understandable since most stories are more complext than can be adequately condensed into a headline, and the fact that headlines are typically written by an editor and not the reporter.

There was big news in the Baker report regarding BP’s safety record. Two items in fact. One of them is that BP has already substantially addressed all the recommendations put forward in the report. Second, and more important, the report provides a direct refutation of the very well publicized accusation of the head of the Chemical Safety Board that the safety problems at BP were a direct result of cost cutting. That theory goes well with the media and the public perception, but the Baker report said it wasn’t true.

However, you will note, these were not the headlines. The report said: “(Baker report)said it found no evidence that BP scrimped on safety in order to cut costs” Based on this a headline writer could easily have written: Baker Report Shows Cost Cutting Did Not Result in Safety Problems at BP. That, however, is not what they wrote.

In fact, the Baker Report says that the focus of BP on personal safety instead of process safety was the real problem. Interesting. They also cited Lord Browne’s leadership in other key areas such as climate change.

Once the media decides on a story line it is very difficult to change it–impossible probably. And the way this is reported demonstrates that the story of irresponsible money-grubbing will continue to be the main theme–regardless of the facts.

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