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Media Faces Barriers Covering Arkansas Oil Spill

mayflower oil spill

 The news media in Arkansas is finding it harder to cover the Mayflower oil spill. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has placed flight restrictions on the airspace over the Mayflower oil spill site.

KUAR News contacted an FAA spokesman about the restrictions. He did not want his comments recorded but said the restrictions apply to aircraft flying at 1,000 feet or less, like news media helicopters and local aircraft.

KARK News Director Austin Kellerman
KARK News Director Austin Kellerman

  Television station KARK had taken aerial footage of the site a few days after the spill. News Director Austin Kellerman says he feels fortunate to have that video, but says he feels the FAA restrictions will hurt the ability of the news media to follow up and compare.

"I know there's no time set on when that no fly zone restriction would be lifted and that concerns me because we then don't know when we'll be able to follow up," says Kellerman.

Meanwhile, the FAA spokesperson noted the air space needs to be free so aircraft flying in to respond to the disaster can do so.

Dead Vegetation in Lake Conway
Credit http://www.tarsandsblockade.org/
Dead Vegetation in Lake Conway

On Wednesday morning, the news media – including KUAR News – had been told they would be allowed to follow Attorney General Dustin McDaniel as he toured the oil spill site, but less than 90 seconds into the tour the media was told to leave by Exxon and local authorities.

KARK News Director Kellerman says this brings up some other concerns.

"I guess what concerns me is, 'Who's in charge, and does Exxon have the ability to tell people where they can go?' Whether it's a homeowner, whether it's the media, my understanding is that Exxon can't tell anyone where to go," says Kellerman.

Update Thursday, April 4, 2013, at 12:15 p.m.:

FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford confirms that news media helicopters can now once again fly over the site of the Mayflower oil spill.  Lunsford says if news helicopters want to fly over the site, however, they will need to call ahead of time and clear it with Tom Suhrhoff of ExxonMobil.

Aerial footage of oil spill site taken by videojournalist Adam Randall that quickly went viral on YouTube:


Karen Tricot Steward was a News Anchor, Reporter and Content Development Director for UA Little Rock Public Radio.
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