« NoLa, Weather, Drooling Reporters and a QOD | Main | caption, please »

Covering the coverage [updated - again]

There are hundreds of people blogging the hurricane right now. I think I'm going to blog the coverage. The STUPID coverage.

We'll start with this:


And the accompanying quote:

"We need to recognize we may be about to experience our equivalent of the Asian tsunami, in terms of the damage and the numbers of people that can be killed," said Ivor van Heerden, director of the Louisiana State University Public Health Research Center in Baton Rouge.

I'm going to collect alarmist, overhyped, shock-value news items and quotes. Send them along.

I'm not saying this won't or can't be devasting to the city, but why, oh why, does there have to be this comparison? Was the tsunami their earthquake? Was the SF earthquake their great flood? Come on. Soon enough there will be catchy coverage names: Hurricane Hell! Storm of the Century!

It also occurs to me that the people in Asia had no warning. New Orleans had days to prepare. Or was that enough? NZ Bear blogs about negligent homicide.

And I just heard that the Superdome roof is 1/4 gone and the stadium is leaking?

Update: a quotable quote, from CNN (via Brendan Loy):

"Everyone is just kind of looking up in awe, that this is supposed to be the safest place in New Orleans, and now the Superdome is giving way to this Superstorm."

Citizen Journalist braves the elements!

Update: Please see the comments for more disturbing coverage. And welcome AOL readers! Welcome MSNBC readers, too. Hit the main page, there's more hurricane coverage and a cheesecake picture of Jessica Simpson, and a scary picture of grown men wearing eyeliner and fondling a statue!


Atlantis? Ya think? Will the future generations of this world be left wondering if New Orleans ever existed?

Update: Right now on CNN:

Life-threatening flooding next fear

So..New Orleans does NOT disappear, is NOT the next Atlatnis, the Superdome does NOT collapse upon 10,000 people, there are NOT thousands of deaths nor corpses floating by on streams of raw sewage, but hang on New Orleans, the media will get their catastrophe yet!


Breaking news: New Orleans is below sea level. Betcha didn't know that.

The last sentence from this story:

Tina and Bryan Steven of Forest Lake, Minn., sat glumly on the sidewalk outside their hotel.

"We're choosing the best of two evils," said Bryan Steven. "It's either be stuck in the hotel or stuck on the road. ... We'll make it through it."

His wife, wearing a Bourbon Street T-shirt with a lewd message, interjected: "I just don't want to die in this shirt."

Brendan Loy's site indicates a 12-foot section has peeled away and that they're moving people out from under it, but that rain and wind are now pouring into the stadium.

He also quotes a reporter (Brian Williams?) as saying, to keep on topic with your post, that "now the Superdome is giving way to this Superstorm."

I imagine him following that up with a very low-note, vocalized "Dum dum dum!"

Picture of the damaged Superdome.

I got your stupid coverage.

Gotta love the Fox News reporter about an hour ago standing pretty much directly in front of the eye, saying he's going to face the rain coming at him because "it doesn't hurt so much", then turning his head sharply to watch some hard debris fly by as he points and says "Wow did you see that!?"

Quickly followed by "I'm coming in. It's really stupid to be out here now".

Re: Superdome. Brian Williams is in there, reporting by phone. Is that a good sign for him? I can't really picture NBC putting Brokaw up in a dangerous, human waste infested dome to cover a hurricane, but maybe that's just me.

The Good News is that New Orlean's WDSU's website shows:

'New Orleans - 80deg - Light Rain'

9:05 local time

The stupid coverage that is bugging me is the regular people interviews...they were interviewing people on their way into the Superdome, where they've been told to BRING FOOD & WATER for themselves, and came across a woman w/a purse and Diet Coke. That is all. When the reporter asked her why that was all she brought, she said she was sure someone would be providing food, and she wasn't worried.

Now, I understand, a lot of these people didn't have the resources to leave town (which confuses me, but I've heard it so much, I believe it to be true)...but can you not, for one day or two, even THINK about trying to help yourself out? Or not be a HUGE suck on the limited resources that are there? Wouldn't it be a GREAT HELP if everyone had brought at least enough food & water for the first night? Since no one knows how long they'll be there or if help will be able to reach them soon? Is this crazy thinking on my part?


Oh look, they let the loonies out for a day. How cute.

Everyone stop and stare at Dean Berry. Isn't he ADORABLE?

Where's my Pokin' Stick...

If I were a better person, I would feel a measure of compassion for the reporters standing in the rain to bring us up-to-the-minute Katrina Koverage, but in the end, all I can think about is Dave Barry's "Tricky Business".

(If you've read it, you'll understand immediately; if you haven't, give it a go.)

How about any references to "Katrina and the Waves"?

I got sick of Katrina and the Waves reference by Friday. Any reporter saying such a thing now should be beat about the head with a vinyl copy of the dance version of Walking on Sunshine.

At this point, I think making "Katrina and the Waves" references is about as tasteful as cracking dead-baby jokes in the hospital room of a woman who's just miscarried.

Regarding the Superdome:

Anyone who's seen Earthquake will tell you that you never want to go to the government-sanctioned safe area. Or lived in Srebrenica, for that matter.

In defense, though, of the people who stayed, one only needs to consider news-hype and the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

Uhh...I'm going to beg to differ there, Ricki. I think you're missing a sense of perspective.

I'm surprised you didn't pull the 'best' part of the "Our Tsunami" story:

"So, imagine you're the poor person who decides not to evacuate: Your house will disintegrate around you. The best you'll be able to do is hang on to a light pole, and while you're hanging on, the fire ants from all the mounds -- of which there is two per yard on average -- will clamber up that same pole. And, eventually, the fire ants will win."

Big Easy the New Atlantis?


Speaking of tsunamis, Bartcop.com posted a claim about 12pm CT yesterday that a "20-foot tsunami was headed for New Orleans."

I think Bartcop needs to learn the difference between storm surge and a tsunami. Or pay a little more attention to news stories.

Not to mention that Katrina was still more than 150 miles away and at least 12 hours away at the time. And, of course, there was no tsunami.

Here is another prime example of how to sell commercial time at 4x the regular cost. Are people in this country that stupid??? I guess so 49.8% voted for Kerry

New Orleans - the next Atlantis? Talk about the Deep South!

how about these"

"New Orleans Facing Environmental Disaster"

"Experts: Katrina could leave 1 million homeless"

"Pumps, levees no defence"

"New Orleans may be destroyed"

'Once-in-a-lifetime' storm bears down on Gulf Coast

"New Orleans faces doomsday storm"

- you could find a ton of these by Googling, and using "katrina worst-case"

total rubbish, sensationalism...just to drum up sales.

the email address of the "Big Easy to become Atlantis" originator:


I don't know... last night when I read they were putting people into the SuperDome, I pictured Tommy Lee Jones in that straight-to-video classic, Volcano...

Yes I saw that wonderful headline about Atlantis and went a bit wtf?

C Bassett, that must have been the same idiot reporter who made his cameraman follow him around a corner of the hotel so they could film the main street; he ran out to the sidewalk and crouched down by a turned-over mailbox (almost got knocked on his butt by the wind on the way)and he was holding onto the mailbox when a piece of metal came off. He looked at it and said, "Well, we're going back in now."

Now that's reporting.

I just saw coverage of some idiots out dancing around in knee-high water outside their homes.

As the news coverage has emphasized, not only is that water most likely contaminated with sewage, oil, gasoline and all sorts of other nasty stuff, there's also the displaced critters to think about...snakes, alligators, and so on.

Don't these people think?

The raw sewage thing is what scares me. I suspect the real "disaster" (which probably will be underreported, the newshounds having moved onto the Next Big Filmable Thing) will be the outbreaks of disease - up to and possibly including cholera - that happen after this is all over.

Here's a great one. Tucker Carlson (R-Idiot) asked a Superdome official if the Superdome had enough bathrooms for the 10,000 or so people staying there.

Hmm, does a dome with a capacity of 70,000+ have enough bathrooms for 10,000....

I have a daughter who lives on one of the islands at the base of Mobile. She probably lost her home and all her belongings, this will be third time they were evacuated this year. I told her it's time to move north.

Re: the Atlantis headline -- so now we know that at least someone who works for CNN believes that the old Atlantis existed.

Re: cholera. Well, after every single hurricane that we've had in the past twenty years the news people started shrieking about "raw sewage" and "cholera" and "disease claiming hundreds of lives that escaped immediate death by wind and water" and every time we proved that we are still the USA, not postwar Calcutta, by cleaning up the dirty water and not having an outbreak of anything. Besides, it's the sludge of toxic waste that is going to be part of the Deadly Aftermath. Get it right.

Re: bathrooms -- oh, you'd be surprised. Let me tell you about the sad story of the many auditoriums and stadiums I have been to whose builders apparently were under the impression that they would only need a pair of small locked chambers secreted in an out of the way area for the occasional use of the staff. On the other hand, the memories are still too painful, so I'll leave it at that.

If the city floods, it won't make any difference how many bathrooms the 'Dome has. They're not going to be functional anyway.

Especially for the lunatic troll!
Where are the National Socialist Americans?


so now we know that at least someone who works for CNN believes that the old Atlantis existed.

Maybe they think they're working for SeaNN.

Let's be honest: New Orleans didn't dodge the worst-case scenario by that much. The dry air from Texas that pushed in at the last moment moved the storm a bit farther east away from the city. Had the storm hit just 15-20 miles further west, it would have been much, much worse, and nobody here would be poking fun at those who "overhyped" the story, wrote about possible massive casualties or environmental disaster. I'm glad their worst predictions didn't come to pass, but I think it would be a mistake to ignore their warnings in the future. And I still think anyone who could have evacuated and didn't was a damn fool.

Just like any dramatic event, Hurricane Katrina brings out the best and worst in people...and that includes those covering the news. Remember, Dan Rather in his early years and how his career took off after his hurricane coverage many, many years ago. I'm not making excuses but let's face it, careers can be made--or broken--on this storm...and those covering it know it all too well. Some reporters act responsibly; others act like...well, you've seen what they do. You're told to seek shelter by a reporter being blown or washed away as he or she does a stand-upper. Yet it does show the awful strength of the storm. We've all seen it before and we'll see it again. Let's hope some broadcast journalists can see the silliness of their ways when they review their live shots or taped segs. But as a whole--and I am in the business--the reporting in the field and studio stuff has been good. Let's face it, it's a really great story and it doesn't happen too often. And yes, even the best can ask some silly, if not stupid questions. If the coverage has saved some lives, then this is a good thing, as Martha would say. It's the last week in August and what other news is breaking--the new school year? Katrina was news...big news.

Olbermann led off with a Katrina & the waves line tonight. What a surprise. And he also included in his intro the bit about how the Bushies have cut back on funding for the Army Corps and disaster planning specific to New Orleans, as if without those cuts the storm might not have been so bad, or something. Ask the Biloxians how important that is to them.

Also, and I have no quotes, but trust me, Geraldo last night was in full Geraldo form in hoping for the worst, complete with cemetaries giving up their dead and chemicals spewing anywhere and everywhere into the air. He must be a little disappointed today.

The headline is different on their website now but today's print edition of the Dallas Morning News frontpage headline read:
"Ain't No Safe Place Nowhere"
Nothing like stereotyping an entire city.

I think it is interesting that in the face of disaster, newscasters and weather people can talk about prayer on television.

Are there certain (cliched) shots that are mandatory? Like, the weatherperson being knocked around by the wind; shots of ocean waves, even if they're not especially high; people installing plywood over their windows; traffic at a standstill on I-Whatever; the somber newscaster saying that it's just gone to a category-fill-in-the-blank storm. Are these maybe all the same scenes, and they just trot them out for each big storm? Do the somber-looking announcers go off camera and leap off the ground, punching the air, screaming, "Yahoooo! A category 5 hurricane, with lots of flooding!!!"?
Or does it just seem that way to me?

This storm was (if anything) under-hyped by the media. You and Dan Drezner do not seem to understand the difference between a Cat-1 70mph storm and a monster like Katrina.

The media was really afraid to hype this storm as much as it should have, with the result that many more people died than should have. It was the National Hurricane Center and the professors running LSU's hurricane models on their computers who correctly recognized the possibility of the complete destruction of New Orleans. What happened was very close to that.

It's not about the hype, Ryan. It's about the WAY they cover it, as if they are eager for this to be some catastrophic end of the world scenario because, damn, that's good for ratings.

Check out the main page at FoxNews...

"This is Our Tsunami"

Um, not to belittle the estimated 80 deaths, but when you consider that the 2004 tsunami took 300,000+ lives, I'd say that this is a poor comparison.

I keep reading about "raw sewage" in New Orleans. Do y'all cook your sewage up North?

"Um, not to belittle the estimated 80 deaths, but when you consider that the 2004 tsunami took 300,000+ lives, I'd say that this is a poor comparison."

My thoughts exactly. The media's ethnocentricity is staggering if they call Katrina equivalent to the tsunami when it was a small fraction of the lives lost and damage done. Not to mention that there was actual warning for Katrina, and 80 percent of New Orleans' population were able to evacuate beforehand. Instead of trying to hype this up as "the super storm", the media should focus on ways the viewers can help.

The only time I can remember seeing news people being genuinely shocked and not the least bit happy about ratings was the morning of 9/11.

I can't believe a "journalist" actually quoted the frightened director of the LSU Public Health Research Center, comparing the impending disastrous nature of a hurricane, with the BIBLICAL event of last year's tsunami. it is REPORTED that, on that side of the planet, the tsunami took away 250,000 lives. I'm sure that amount is understated.

Hey, there may sadly be few hundred deaths as a result of this cyclonic beast. I'm not mocking the devastation a Category 4 or 5 can cause, and any loss of life and property is painful, but to watch our media play with themselves is simply a waste of time.

Once the warning comes in, I'm packing a bag to drive somewhere AWAY from the onslaught of 28-foot storm surges and 175-MPH winds. Actually, I'd probably be more leery of the part of Louisiana that "would soon be infested with poisonous ants and snakes" and the areas "that are expected to be infested with swamp creatures."


What the heck is a swamp creature? Out here in Los Angeles, I know earthquakes intimately.

Anyway, if you catch me lolly-gagging to watch a moment of egotistical news anchors squirming in a frenzied fight for ratings, then smack me upside the head.


The media coverage is starting to look pretty accurate now!

Tom, are you kidding me?

At least the coverage of the looting is right on target... but I wonder how they will compare it tomorrow... will it be in conjuction with the LA riots ???

Why can't they just call it Katrina... are the American people that dumb that they cant figure out what they are seing on the screen is catastropic..... The Killer Storm ... blah blah blah....

The best thing that happened this week was when Katrina hit here in FL and knocked out local fox news for 10 minutes.... that must have impacted their up to the minute coverage substantially... God forbid they missed a wind gust increase from 12.3 to 12.5

Well, now that the levees are compromised and water continues to pour into New Orleans, maybe we'll all take this seriously the next time. As a journalist, I can't tell you how many times I've either written or said, "Take it seriously the next time," and people continue to disregard warnings. Didn't your parents tell you that it's better to be safe than sorry?

Strangely enough the hype, while still hype is not as hyped as one thought it would be. I wonder if people who were previously soft selling the potential impact of this hurricane are now willing to take back at least some of what they've claimed. Probably not...

As I was watching our local tv new's on channel 4 covering the hurricaine aftermath and the looting I pondered this question: Where in the hell are they going to put the loot? Hang it from the trees.

Now that corpses are floating down the streets of raw sewage and violent riots are the norm, maybe you'll start taking this seriously, huh?

Better to be proactive than reactive. It's people like you that make disasters far worse than they need to be. If people had heeded additional warnings, maybe this wouldn't be such a debacle now.

Same thing happened after Andrew in 1992. The first day, everyone was like "Hey, this wasn't so bad. The media blows things so out of proportion, blah blah blah." Then the pictures from Homestead started coming in.

And to the person who was debasing Tucker Carlson (yes, he is an idiot, but....), he made an extremely prescient point. The bathrooms in the Superdome would overflow and become useless if the water levels rose in the city. And now the bathrooms are useless. I'm sure there was tons of planning on that, though, especially if geniuses like you were in charge of the pre-planning.

This entire mess just kinda' reinforces what I've been thinkning for a while; 'homeland security' is nothing but a dog and pony show. If the government cant't get their act together for this, only imagine how imbecilic and incompetent the response would be if tens of thousands of people were displaced and/or killed in some other incident.

Yah, ok Jason. It's MY fault. Mmmhm.

Once again, I was taking issue with the media's behavior in that they were sensationalizing....

ah, fuck it.

No point in explaining to people who just want to spout off idiocy.

Michele, Don't think he was blaming you. Just pointing out that Katrina turned out to BE sensational...not in the good sense though.

How exactly was I spouting off idiocy? And I never said the hurricane itself was your fault - I merely said that your response to the coverage was un-called for.

Look, you have to scare people to get them to act. Fear is an excellent motivator. If the news media said 'Katrina may be bad, maybe you should kinda' sorta' consider leaving', do you think ANYONE would listen?

I say better for them to scare everyone out of town than anything else. I had friends in the Tampa area who evacuated for Charley before it turned and hit Punta Gorda. Are they ever bitter that the disaster didn't materialize? Hell no. They'd leave again in a second if they were told it would be that bad. And it was bad - just not in that location. I think the news media does a poor job of reporting on natural disasters, but let's face it - unless you threaten some people with images of certain death, they ain't leaving. It's the price you have to pay, and frankly, I think human life's worth that. I understand you don't agree with me. So be it.

And look, people aren't as stupid as you seem to assume they are. When the media says that 'New Orleans may become the next Atlantis', I believe most everyone realizes it's an analogy that refers to the fact that the city could be under 20 feet of water, not that the city is going to dissapear and forgotten forever, etc.