Sunday, May 09, 2010

A Major Disaster Ignored by the Media - Why?

From CS Monitor:
The deadly flood that soaked Nashville, including iconic music dives like the Grand Ole Opry, may become the worst disaster to hit the state since the Civil War, and one of the worst non-hurricane disasters in US history.
So where was the 24-hour blitzkrieg news coverage of a major US city under water?
With the Gulf oil spill and the Times Square bombing attempt dominating the news cycle, maybe the relative lack of coverage and attention can be chalked up to disaster overload or the lack of a broader political and social narrative of the kind that drove hurricane Katrina coverage.
One Facebook group wondered, "Pardon us, did you notice Nashville is drowning?"
Fortunately, it turns out anonymity suits many Tennesseans fine. Chalk up the ambivalence about the relative lack of national coverage and attention to good old country grit – and a city's determination to take care of its own.
"A large part of the reason that we are being ignored is because of who we are," writes Patten Fuqua on the hockey blog Section 303. "Did you hear about crime sprees? No … you didn't. You saw a group of people trying to move two horses to higher ground. [We] weren't doing anything to draw attention to ourselves. We were handling it on our own."
(See the rest of the piece here).

Well, that part is true. The authorities were not prepared for anything of this magnitude. Take a look here. The Army Corps of Engineers ended up labeling it a "1000-year flood". So, many residents in the outer-lying areas did turn to their neighbors and got things done. In my brother's rural stretch of the countryside west of Nashville, his neighbors gathered and came up with a plan to repair the badly damaged bridge that was keeping them trapped. Some of them had large diesel tractors and a backhoe, and working together, they all managed to shore up the bridge, and get a single lane open on it. It took hours, but they did it. (See picture below).
Then the county emergency workers showed up with relief supplies, bottled water, etc. They were relieved that the neighbors had freed themselves, because they were upfront about the fact that they would have no way of getting across otherwise. There was simply no contingency plan for the extent of the flooding, homes underwater, and the casualties.

But there are other theories about why this catastrophe was such a media non-event. Andrew Romano, a blogger for Newsweek, says:
"I see two main reasons. First, the modern media may be more multifarious than ever, but they're also remarkably monomaniacal. In a climate where chatter is constant and ubiquitous, newsworthiness now seems to be determined less by what's most important than by what all those other media outlets are talking about the most. Sheer volume of coverage has become its own qualification for continued coverage. (Witness the Sandra Bullock-Jesse James saga.) In that sense, it's easy to see why the press can't seem to focus on more than one or two disasters at the same time. Everyone is talking about BP and Faisal Shahzad 24/7, the "thinking" goes. So there must not be anything else that's as important to talk about. It's a horrible feedback loop."
More at Newsweek.

Ironically, the MSM's paucity of flood coverage ended up shedding far more light on the MSM and its glaring flaws than it ever did about this widespread disaster that destroyed so much.


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