Who Knew a Coal Seam Could Be So Newsworthy?

by Kathleen Sgamma, President on April 17, 2017 - 8:11am

Who Knew a Coal Seam Could Be So Newsworthy?

On the last day of March, BLM replaced the banner picture on its home page with a picture of an 80-foot coal seam at the North Antelope Rochelle mine. The whiplash created was illustrative.




By our count, the picture swap spawned 638 news stories. Originally reported by Mashable, which is a technology and pop-culture site, it was picked up by the Associated Press, NPR, CNN, Reuters, NBC News and hundreds of local news sites and environmental blogs. Environmental groups like 350.org and Greenpeace went crazy on social media.

The response was illustrative of how the media and public are conditioned to believe that public land agencies are about conservation and not about multiple uses like energy development, mining, ranching, and timber. Even though a BLM spokesperson calmly explained that the pictures will be rotated every Friday to reflect the full range of uses of public lands, the story was blown out of proportion. 

Or maybe not. There’s a new emphasis at BLM and the Department of the Interior, and the picture did make that point loudly and clearly. It was a dramatic switch from the past messaging on the web site and via social media that just emphasized the conservation mission of BLM, downplaying other uses of the land. BLM has used fuzzy animals and dramatic scenery clickbait for its social media messaging, as Aaron Johnson, our VP of Public Affairs wrote about in a “covert propaganda” blog post

By last Friday, the picture was back in a safe space -- a man fly fishing. We look forward to the oil-well-in-the-sunset picture. 

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