September 27, 2005

CNN Survivor: New Orleans, Part Deux

Due to certain llamas who consider me to be untrustworthy (I can't imagine why they'd think that!) I can't add YIPS FROM KATHY to this post by Steve-o, I find myself forced to start a new post wherein I refer you to Jeff Goldstein, who goes in-depth on the topic of media blowhards and Katrina coverage:

{...}In short, the narrative that the media decided upon shortly after the hurricane hit and the levees breached—that Katrina was a disaster of epic proportions that was made worse by an uncaring and slow-acting federal government—was going to be their truth. And so anything that fit that either fit that truth or could be spun to support it was going to be celebrated; and anything that contradicted that truth would be minimized or ignored. Hyperbole was justified insofar as it drove home how dire the media insisted the situation was; sensationalism and a lax attitude toward checking facts in advance of “reporting” them were justified insofar as they jibed with the larger “truths” the media had decided up. Fake but accurate. A young Dan Rather indeed…

And now, weeks later, the post mortem is revealing cracks in those initial truths: the levees didn’t crumble as a result of federal budget cuts; the Red Cross and Salvation Army were ready with relief supplies even as Shepard Smith screamed about federal negligence; the USS Bataan was flying rescue missions immediately after Katrina hit, not waiting for word from a guitar-strumming President; plenty of Guard troops were available and waiting for the Governor to request assistance, the Iraq War having virtually no bearing whatever on their ability to provide help in Katrina’s aftermath.


And so is it really a surprise that the journalists who we celebrate today are those whose reporting tells a “big picture story” and reaches for “truth” and “justice” and “lessons”—with the best being those who are able to do so on the fly so that, in effect, they are inventing the story, corroborating it, and ossifying it even as they tell it?

Hardly. And Shepard Smith did just that. Thanks to his reporting, we believed the absolute worst about the federal response. We believed the city had descended into anarchy—with crime and suffering the rule. Thanks to his reporting, we had no context in which to place the extent of the damage (the area affected being the size of Utah or Great Britain; the destruction of the infrastructure and roadways creating logistical nightmares for rescuers, who overcome incredible obstacles to get into the city, etc.)—and so the whole world was reduced to the microcosm of his camera’s reach and his own description of events. The result, of course, was uninformed outrage, which led, predictably, to the circling of the party wagons, the desire to place blame, etc.—all because today’s media was so intent on telling us a “story” and looking for lessons and larger truths that they crafted a narrative in advance of all those pesky facts that have since come out, and which continue to come out. {...}

It's well worth your time to go and read the entire thing if you haven't already seen it. Follow the links, too.

Posted by Kathy at September 27, 2005 11:47 AM | TrackBack