Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Journalistic Follow-up

Journalistic follow-up is, of course, oxymoronic. Journalists follow a story only until some new crisis, or semi-pornographic incident arises to displace the first. Once that happens the circus decamps, and relocates to the latest scene. This saves reporters from having to write conclusions and permits more airtime and column inches to be devoted to the latest outrage or titillating news story.

This pattern is already beginning to appear in coverage of Katrina's aftermath. In fact, it started almost as soon as the storm passed. All eyes, and all news vans, turned to New Orleans as she sank. Armed looters, rapists and floating corpses made for better visuals and bylines than did the more-or-less dry, and orderly aftermath in Mississippi and Alabama. However, when a man shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice -- as happened in Hattiesburg, MS -- then the porn appeal of that town's aftermath-experience went through the roof and the media covered it, turning away, however briefly, from NO. Now, we see even the story of NO's submersion and ensuing misery being displaced by coverage of the increasingly bloody blame-game being played at all levels of government.

The slinging is now directed chiefly at the POTUS, and the story of N'Awlins falls quickly below the line as journalistic Ahabs pursue their favorite quarry, the elusive W. The suffering, rape and floating corpses no longer represent the story of Katrina's aftermath, but rather have evolved into symbols of the incompetence of the federal government under Bush. Never mind that the first line of defense is state and local governments; blame Bush. The spectacle of politicians playing the blame game during a truly precarious moment for this nation is even more disheartening than the image of looters running wild in NO. While the water begins to recede from the streets of the Big Easy, the rhetoric rises ever higher, submerging the real story of devastation and eventual (hopefully) revival, beneath an ocean of blame-Bush recrimination.

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