Oil continuing to leak from a damaged offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico probably will prove to be one of the biggest ecological disasters in U.S. history. The public deserves to know everything about it.
Recently, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the government's "point man" on the spill, said his policy is to allow the press virtually unfettered access to the disaster area.
Allen said there would be only two reasons to deny reporters and photographers such access. One would be lack of personal protective gear and the other would be security, he said.
Allen's comment was in response to a reporter's question about journalists being denied access to some areas involved in the spill and cleanup efforts.
He noted there can be differences in government policy and that of private companies on the issue. He added he hoped BP, owner of the leaking well, agrees with his philosophy.
Private companies and individuals do not have to comply with the same press freedom rules that bind government, of course.
But Allen is right: BP should provide access to journalists for disaster-area sites under its control.
Many journalists are familiar with other situations in which they have been denied access to disaster or crime sites. Too often, the only reason is that those involved do not want the press to reveal embarrassing information.
BP - and, to a lesser extent, the government -already have made many, many embarrassing mistakes. But attempting to "manage" press coverage merely leads to questions about what is being covered up.
The gulf oil spill raises too many questions about the energy industry - and, again, government - for there to be any chance of a coverup.
Allen should exert whatever pressure is in his power to convince BP to provide journalists with full access.