First reports are always wrong. They are usually believed.
Emotional reports usually have worse information on their face than unemotional reports.
What one person sees in the six feet around him is true to him but can also be wrong overall.
Therefore, on the face of it, the nonstop screaming that was Katrina coverage was guaranteed to be low information content. And, ohbytheway, wrong and influentially wrong.
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Hugh Hewitt on PBS:
But America was riveted by this reporting, wholesale collapse of the media’s own levees they let in all the rumors, and all the innuendo, all the first-person story because they were caught up in this own emotionalism. Exactly what Keith was praising I think led to one of the worst weeks of reporting in the history of American media, and it raises this question: If all of that amount of resources was given over to this story and they got it wrong, how can we trust American media in a place far away like Iraq where they don’t speak the language, where there is an insurgency, and I think the question comes back we really can’t.
JEFFREY BROWN: Mr. Hewitt, what about another issue that Mr. Woods raised, that’s the aggressiveness of the reporters, the passion that they brought to the story, do you think that that was useful in pushing officials to respond?
HUGH HEWITT: No. Absolutely not. In fact I think that some of the journalists involved especially anchors became so caught up in their own persona and their own celebrity they missed important and obvious stories.
They failed to report on the basic issues surrounding who deploys the National Guard; they failed to report on why the Salvation Army and the Red Cross were forbidden by state officials to deliver supplies to the Superdome and the convention center. They failed to report what happened to the buses; they failed to establish a chronology — so addicted did they become to the idea that at last, after two years of media collapse – I mean, we go back to Jayson Blair and Rather-gate and Eason Jordan — it’s been terrible two years for the American media.
They finally had something in which they could appear quasi heroic, and they tried very hard to appear quasi heroic, and in so doing they botched the story. And I just have to object to my fellow guest here, it wasn’t that they missed things; there were sins of omission, it’s that they reported panic inducing, fear inducing, hysteria inducing mass sort of casualty events, looting, pillaging, murder sprees, sort of the most squalid journalism you could imagine, and I have to ask them and ask the media generally, don’t we have to go back and find out how to guard against this sort of thing, because we’ve had mass disasters in the past, we’re going to have them in the future — if media becomes addicted it to — they told me it was so I’ll put it out there — that’s terrible for democracy to have a media that is willing to suspend their disbelief and report urban myth.
And I think one other thing, Jeff, people have to ask: Why was the media so eager and willing to circulate these stories? Is it because we were dealing with the urban under class, largely black, and largely a community with which the elite media does not often deal? And as a result they were willing to believe stories about this community that they might not have given any credence to in a different situation.
Media Blog responding to reporter Heath Allen:
Itâ€™s the responsibility of the photojournalist to capture that and put it on television because those people at that point needed help no matter what was true, what was false, what was exaggerated.
Now take that last statement apart from the particular circumstances of Hurricane Katrina and the Convention Center. Is it okay for a journalist to report things even if they are false or exaggerated, as long as the reporting helps needy people?
The Junkyard Blog rounding up weak and milquetoast mea culpas from major newspapers:
Case in point: The NY Times finally follows where the LA Times, the Times-Picayune and the AP have led, examining the role of rumor mongering in relief efforts after the levees broke in New Orleans. Here’s the nut sentence:
What became clear is that the rumor of crime, as much as the reality of the public disorder, often played a powerful role in the emergency response.
Ya think so? Is it possible that all the rumors combined with the meltdown at the city level and the incompetence at the state level might have had a thing or two with how the whole situation played out?