The Conversation: Press Hassled on Gulf Coast?

ABC reporter Matt Gutman questioned during video chat on Alabama beach.

ByABC News
June 10, 2010, 11:18 AM

June 10, 2010— -- Reporting is often about access, but journalists along the Gulf Coast covering the BP oil spill have had some trouble getting it.

As BP faces more pressure from the government and from its own shareholders unhappy with the company's falling stock price, it seems to be clamping down on who can talk to reporters.

Despite company statements that anyone on cleanup crews can share their views, ABC's Matt Gutman reports that's not necessarily the case. Today during a "World News" Conversation, he saw firsthand how a BP manager took pains to keep workers away from the press.

While preparing for a video chat on his laptop from a public beach in Alabama, Gutman was hassled by the manager of a nearby crew, asking Gutman why he was on the beach.

"You mind if I ask why you've set up a camera right here while my guys are working?" the man asked. After Gutman explained that he was a reporter for ABC News, the manager responded, "I find it interesting."

For Gutman and other journalists along the Gulf, it's tough to report when so many are barred from talking.

"It's incredibly frustrating working here because of those conditions," Gutman told ABC's Dan Harris. "Everywhere you go, you find police barricades, people telling you, you can't do this, you can't do that, or you can't talk to these people. We're not exactly sure why that is."

"Here we see dozens of workers on this beach" picking up minute pieces of oil, Gutman said. "They seem to be doing their job and I think they should be commended for it and maybe receive a little bit of press for it."

Watch the incident in today's Conversation from the Gulf Coast.