“Gusher,” “Disaster,” “Blowout”: What to Call the Gulf (Spill)?

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Day 62 and we’re well beyond the point where “oil spill” does justice to the slow motion tragedy unfolding in the Gulf. Spill, of course, suggest that a finite quantity has been released. But not only is the Gulf gusher still gushing, we still don’t know exactly how much it’s spewing. The latest federal estimates the well could be leaking as much as 65,000 barrels per day. An internal BP document, meanwhile, indicates that it could reach 100,000 barrels a day if the worst-case-scenario plays out.

So how should those of us reporting on the disaster refer to it? “Spill” has been the noun of choice, likely because it is both short and the term we are most familiar with based on previous oil accidents, like the Exxon Valdez. But this piece in the Biloxi Sun Herald yesterday raises a good point: Why don’t reporters start referring to it by something more accurate?

Some of the ideas floated in the piece:

Gusher
Catastrophe
Life-altering catastrophe
Debacle
Calamity
Technological disaster
Big mess
Leak
Blowout

I figured we should throw this out to readers as well. What do you think reporters should be calling this?

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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