Journalism

Who Are You Blaming for the Gas Panic?

123RF

Parts of the country, especially the southeast, are in the grips of a gas panic as people rush to fill their tanks. But who’s at fault?

Did you join in the great Gas Panic of 2021? Let me put it this way: did you buy gas over the past couple of days despite having more than half a tank in your vehicle?

If you did, you might be part of the problem.

Last week, the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline, which extends from Texas to New Jersey, had to be temporarily shut down. The reason? A group of hackers accessed the pipeline’s system and added ransomware.

President Joe Biden said the latest intel indicated a group based in Russia is responsible.

The pipeline is already partially back online, according to numerous media reports.

Pipeline officials said they expect to fully reopen the pipeline by the end of the week, according to numerous media reports.

Gasoline and oil analysts warned people not to “panic buy” for days. All that would do is cause gasoline shortages and drive up prices, according to numerous media reports.

Some governors instituted states of emergency or the temporary lifting of regulations designed to protect consumers while still insisting people not panic buy, according to numerous media reports.

Yes, the media reported over and over again that you shouldn’t hoard gas.

Yet people have been hoarding gas for days. Reports on Monday included interviews from drivers who said they waited up an hour in line to buy gas. Gas prices, as of Tuesday, reached a national average that nearly tied the highest average since 2014.

Gas stations started running empty.

And people blame the media for the gas panic.

Weren’t they paying attention?

We all know the answer.

When the media covers a story and you don’t heed the advice of the experts or our leaders, that’s not the media’s fault. It’s yours.

When the media brings you expert after expert, leader after leader, urging people not to top off their tanks right now and you top off anyway, that’s not the media’s fault. It’s yours.

And when they report, multiple times, that the crisis is expected to come to an end within days when the pipeline is up and running and you still rush as if you’re going to never see gas again, it’s not the media’s fault. It’s yours.

Sure, some people legitimately need to buy gas. Those people should be able to find it. In many cases, they’re out of luck because people who didn’t need to buy gas beat them to the pump.

But for all of the people who ignored the guidance — and the reporting — they’re the ones who created a new story.

Yes, once the panic happens, it becomes a legitimate story.

For the people who love to blame the media for all of the bad news it covers, they seem to enjoy the gas panic. They also seem to take delight in bashing the media for covering the actual panic.

Check out Facebook pages of various media outlets who post photos of either long lines or gas pumps with “Out of Gas” signs. They blame the media for causing the very problem they’re now reporting.

But one stations began running out of gas, that became its own story. It’s not that the media is trying to “fuel the fire.” It’s that it’s the media’s job to cover what’s happening.

The media tried to prevent the very problem it now finds itself being forced to cover.

But when people won’t listen, others still have a perfectly legitimate need to know where they can find gas. The people who actually heeded the warnings and held off on buying — but who now may need gas — need to know what their chances are of finding it.

If you were in that category, you know you’d want to know.

The media can’t ignore the gas panic now. No matter how often they ran stories with experts and leaders who hoped to prevent it.

If you’re sitting back and accusing the media of causing the panic, ask yourself where you were when the media was reporting why people shouldn’t have rushed to the pump.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.