19. September 2005 · Comments Off on Memo: To the Media, Re Katrina · Categories: General, Home Front, Media Matters Not, Rant

To: Major Media—TV Division
From: Sgt Mom
Re: Katrina Koverage

I honestly wonder why I even bother with NPR any more, the odor of sour sanctimony emanating from such as Diane Rehm and Daniel Schorr is enough to make me gag, most days, but I can avoid the one, and yell through my radio at the other that he is a senile old idiot stuck in his Watergate glory days. Oh, yeah, now I remember: the alternatives are worse. Morning Edition and All Things Considered and the rest of the news programs do make an attempt to cover the news in depth, to examine the genuinely quirky and offbeat, to have sound-bites that are actually longer than 20 seconds, and on occasion to use words that contain three syllables. Also they gave a miss to covering the saga of the runaway bride, the missing student in Aruba, the trial of whatsisfern who murdered his pregnant wife, and other such sensational fare— for which I am profoundly grateful. (They found one, didn’t find the other, and convicted the third, just in case there is anyone else who cares.) Besides, it’s not good to live in an echo chamber, as far as news is concerned: I figure since I listen to NPR, I can give a miss to DU and the Kos Kiddies. (And I still think that would be a great name for a garage band.)

It actually wasn’t a guest interviewee on one of the news programs that set off this week’s Sgt. Mom rant, it was a guest on “Whadda Ya Know”, a sort of comic quiz and variety program, which is Prairie Home Companion’s poorer cousin. This week, the show was broadcast from Cleveland Ohio, and the first interviewed guest was one Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I’d never heard of her, but then I’d never heard of James Lileks, either, before I took up blogging. She came off rather charming at first, with a good radio presence, and nice voice… but then she started talking about news coverage of Katrina, gloated over the horrible plight of those told to take refuge in the New Orleans Superdome and the Convention Center, noted even that the Fox news reporters came unglued over the horrible conditions there, and dumped responsibility for it all onto FEMA. She wound up with a note of pious self-satisfaction by noting that the news media had got their soul back, with the Katrina coverage. Never a mention of course, of the drowned school busses, the evacuation plan that was never followed, or the stunning contrast between the actions of local authorities in New Orleans, and those in Mississippi and Alabama. Of course not— it’s all Bush’s fault.

I hope that beautiful thought gives her some satisfaction— she apparently specializes in writing about the downtrodden and disenfranchised— but, no, I don’t think the news media has got their soul back. Maybe some of the print journalists have, with stories that go back and look at some of the existing issues and events that weren’t rushed in front of the cameras (like this, or this, or this *)but the majority of TV “journalists” have their souls right where they always were… that is, whoring after the bloody, the immediate dramatic image, the simplistic, the sheer drama of a large number of people descending straight into the lord of the flies mode, right in front of the camera. “Look at what Bush made us do!!!!!”, but never a word about the logistical challenges of getting effective help into a large area, when the infrastructure is wrecked, never a word about the absolutely stunning failure of the local and state government to even begin to live up to their commitments to local citizens, never even a bit of healthy skepticism about some of the more audacious claims of riot, rape and murder… Well, really, as commanding officers doing condolence letters were supposed to have written about personnel who managed to get themselves killed in unusually stupid ways, “They behaved in the manner which we had come to expect of them”.

There is a story, about a gossip who regretted spreading a story, and went to the local rabbi, who told her a parable about opening a feather pillow into the wind… and then trying to collect all the scattered feathers. Our TV news-people scatter the feathers, unthinkingly into the wind, and then try to justify their inability to collect them… and wonder why no one respects them any more. Perhaps Ms. Schultz will figure that out, but don’t ask me to hold my breath while she does.

Sgt Mom

(* Sorry, can’t work out a link for this one that circumvents their registry. It’s the story that Instapundit linked late last week about Louisiana FEMA personnel being under investigation for misusing funds)

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