Blogathon for Pearlington

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Katrina and the Media

We’ve heard a lot on the news this year about what the government did wrong in the face of Katrina, and I’ve heard a lot around Mississippi about what the media did wrong. Personally, I think they both have a lot to account for, but it’s the media I’m here to talk about at the moment, and the media, in my opinion, crossed the line into actually adding to the harm.

I missed the Katrina coverage in the immediate aftermath of the storm. I didn’t have T.V. for more than a month. I’ve only seen what’s been replayed or what’s been reported in the subsequent months. I have seen the results of that coverage, though, and I know that great damage was done by it.

When I talk to people who live in other places about the hurricane damage in Mississippi, the first reaction is often shock that there are still clean-up efforts going on. When I start to explain that the devastation was so massive that it will take at least 10 years to rebuild, I get confused, stammering, “But, but…why didn’t we hear about this? I thought the problems from Katrina were mainly in New Orleans.”

New Orleans, as horrific as the events there were and continue to be, is only a small part of the story of what happened in Katrina. And the horror stories of gang-bangers and thugs and rapes and fraudulent spending of aid money are only a small part of the story of what happened in New Orleans.

The media used the graphic nature of tragedies in New Orleans to run its own self-serving campaign against the government. They did this at the expense of the storm victims. That’s not to say the government didn’t make its share of mistakes. It is only to say that the media was so focused on sensationalizing government culpability that it failed to tell the whole story.

Reporters filmed people stranded on rooftops rather than using their helicopters to help in the rescue efforts. What’s worse, they harped so long and hard on the criminal elements among the storm victims that they turned a large portion of the public against doing anything to help.

Murderers using FEMA money to pay for jewelry and drugs is not the story of Katrina. Come to Pearlington if you want to learn some of the real story. Come to Pearlington and meet the kind of people who, when offered basic supplies for starting over, would say things like, “That’s okay. I already have a plate. You give those dishes to somebody who needs them more.”

And please don’t forget. When the government fails, and the media fails, the job is up to the people.


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