Skip to comments.Mike Rosen: Katrina media madness
Posted on 10/21/2005 8:38:12 AM PDT by ajolympian2004
Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron tells The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune of his encounter with a doctor from FEMA. The doctor and three others arrived at the Superdome with a refrigerated 18-wheeler prepared to process 200 bodies that were reportedly stored in a freezer, there, following accounts of murder, mayhem and rape. The real total was six, Col.Beron explains. Four died from natural causes, one from an overdose, and one was an apparent suicide. (Four other bodies were found, nearby, outside the Dome.) The Times-Picayune went on to expose a long list of wild exaggerations and false claims of carnage in New Orleans. There were no "babies" raped at the Dome, no sharks from Lake Pontchartrain swimming through the business district, and the death toll appears to be only a tenth of the 10,000 figure irresponsibly tossed around.
The death and destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina was bad enough if reported accurately. It didn't need to be hyped with exaggerations and sensationalism from hysterical sources whose unsubstantiated claims were enthusiastically heralded by the mainstream media. This has dealt another severe blow to rapidly deteriorating media credibility. A Gallup poll taken a couple of weeks after Katrina struck found that 37 percent of respondents regard most media accounts as unreliable, with 12 percent saying they have no trust in the media at all. That's 49 percent, in total, distrusting the media.
How have we gotten to this point and why do so many in the media, including so-called journalists, behave this way? Why can't they resist rushing to judgment, especially with bad news? Part of the dynamic is competition and ego. News outlets don't like to get scooped. Each wants the story first. And they don't want to be upstaged, either. It's bad enough with newspapers that come out once or twice a day. The demands to fill time, 2 4/7, on radio and, especially, cable television make those outlets desperate for something to report or opine. It isn't called the mass media for nothing. The tendency is to appeal to the masses, and the masses are perceived to like sensationalism. Emotion is judged to play better than reason. Populism is important, too. Newspapers want to be seen as guardians of the public interest and champions of the people, especially the powerless. In journalism schools they're taught to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." Anchors and other TV personalities want to be liked, which they believe translates into higher Nielsen ratings. How better to be liked than to ostentatiously empathize with disaster victims? Go to the scene. Stand out in the rain. Commiserate with the people. Criticize the government.
Katrina and New Orleans were tailor-made for all this. Reporters got personally involved, knee-deep in the floodwaters, fallout and politics. A USA Today headline gushed: "Katrina rekindles adversarial media." Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post praised his colleagues, proclaiming: "For once, reporters were acting like concerned citizens, not passive observers." He mused that journalists may need "to bring more passion to the table." And that's just what Shepard Smith did on the Fox News Channel. Smith hosts the Fox Report and Studio B with Shepard Smith. He was on the scene in New Orleans emoting with the best of them and contributing to the hype and false impressions. I'm not charging that he intentionally distorted anything.
He just got caught up in it. And he was no worse than other reporters. The performance may even have advanced his career. Personally, I was disappointed because I expect more from Fox's news coverage. I prefer Brit Hume's informed, authoritative, measured and dispassionate approach. On the Fox Web site they tout Smith's "pull-no-punches, news-with-an-attitude style." I don't want news with an attitude. I just want news. I do like opinion with an attitude, and that's what Bill O'Reilly does so well on Fox. (Even though there's plenty of O'Reilly spin in his purported "no-spin zone." How could it be otherwise?) Other elements at play in the media's New Orleans coverage were racism and Bush-bashing. Jesse Jackson and his ilk are always looking for a platform to trump up charges of racism, and guilt-ridden media liberals are always happy to oblige. I doubt that the preparation for and reaction to Katrina would have been much different if John Kerry were president, but he isn't and Bush is. So, who could be surprised that the usual media suspects would downplay the culpability of local authorities and pile on the president? It's not only that they like to bash Bush; it might also help the Democrats take Congress in 2006 and get Hillary Clinton elected president in 2008.
Mike Rosen's radio show airs daily from 9 a.m. to noon on 850 KOA
Mike Rosen's 850am KOA webpage: http://www.850koa.com/shows/rosen/index.html
On the Fox Web site they tout Smith's "pull-no-punches, news-with-an-attitude style." I don't want news with an attitude. I just want news. I do like opinion with an attitude, and that's what Bill O'Reilly does so well on Fox.
I heartily second the 'no attitude' comment, but disagree vehemently with Rosen's characterization of BOR. BOR is an opportunist of the first order, with no principles. I stopped watching BOR when he trashed the SwiftVets. Ann Coulter has his number: "BOR immediately takes a position in the middle of any issue, regardless of the right or wrong of it." It's the epitome of cowardice and self-serving cowardice.
You can always read Mike's weekly Friday column at http://www.insidedenver.com/rosen and you can listen to his show on-line from 9am to 11:45 am mountain time by clicking the 'Listen Live' link here: http://www.850koa.com/ (no registration required).
Where's Mike Rosen coming from on Shep Smith's reporting during Katrina? I noticed nothing yellow, exaggerated, sensationalized or distorted coming from Shep. In the old tradition of journalism, Shep gave us outstanding hard news, as opposed to other sources and networks. He was in the crosshairs of Katrina before it arrived -- and he worked tirelessly in New Orleans till it was over. Shep will get much deserved awards for his professional Katrina reporting. Get outta here, Mike! A lot of Katrina coverage was bad, but not Shep's.
Even though I've been listening to Mike Rosen here in Colorado for 16 years now I have to agree with you on this. Shep Smith's coverage of the hurricane Katrina (and Rita for that matter) was outstanding.
The dead bodies were dumped in the river.
I disagree. I felt like Shep was part of the problem, adding fuel to the fire with his hysterical reports from the I-10 bridge. He was also among the journnalists who would report urban legends and hearsay as if it were hard news, therefore contributing to the emotional overreactions of all too many. When I saw drama queens like Shep and Geraldo grandstanding, I couldn't help but think about how they would sleep in warm beds and have hot showers later that night, how they had plenty of water to drink. When I hear statistics about how there were more journalists on the ground in NO than rescue workers, I can't help but ask: how can these weak reporters place blame on anyone for making a bad situation worse without taking credit themselves.
Shep Smith = Drama Queen, emphasis on "Queen."
It didn't need to be hyped with exaggerations and sensationalism from hysterical sources whose unsubstantiated claims were enthusiastically heralded by the mainstream media
---And don't forget that jerk of a mayor getting on TV and saying all that stuff that wasn't really going on because it just fed/fueled the already out of control media.
did they find the girl yet? I guess I'll have to wait for Gretch
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What news shows do you watch?