Missing the point

Jon Friedman, the media guy at Marketwatch, can drive me batty on occasion and this is one of those occasions: He bitches at news media for reporting at least one public official’s worst-case fear of the death toll in New Orleans and then nya-nyas them for being wrong and then acts of as if, gee, it’s not such a bad story after all. Hundreds have died and the counting is, tragically, not over yet. A city stands destroyed. Americans were abandoned in their hour of need. That’s bad, no matter the count. But Friedman says:

Perhaps they were being sincere, if misguided, in their projections. Or, maybe they were taking advantage of the tragedy to put their spin on the disaster and save their necks.

We’ll probably never get to the bottom of that question. We can be assured that the media deserve stinging slaps on the wrists for getting the facts so very wrong.

Listen, they quoted a public official and had no basis to question, disprove, or verify that estimate. There were no facts. So what exactly do you expect them to do: wade into the water, dodge bullets, and start counting bodies? And when the toll on 9/11 did not rise to similar fearful predictions, did you sit back and say, gee, it’s not so bad, is it? This is pointless.

  • Angelos

    Well said. The morning of 9/11, TV was saying that more than 10000 or 15000 people worked in and visited the bulding every day.

    Thankfully, the numbers kept falling. Didn’t lessen the enormity of the event.

    It doesn’t matter how “low” the final number is. That would acutally be the only “good” news to come out of this. And no one I know, on either “side” of the political coin, is hoping for a large death toll to further an agenda.

    Because the timeline of inaction and incompetence doesn’t change. Questions will still need to be answered, apparently by a committe of Republican Congressmen who’s motto is “What went wrong?”

  • EverKarl

    There was, however, a factual predicate for the 9/11 estimates and it was not suggested that this was a predicted death toll.

    I had no problem with them reporting the estimates in this case, so long as they are presented with the proper caviats or qualifications. JJ suggests the press had no reason to question Nagin on the 10K figure. Really? Would it have been too much trouble to ask, “Mr. Mayor, where are you getting that number?” And then report the answer to that question along with the estimate?

  • Angelos

    True EK.

    Our press has forgotten its job.

  • EverKarl

    As JJ just posted something about the Captain’s Quarters blog, I hope he noted the link to the WaPo story reporting that the environmental impact of the flood seems to have been overstated. I would add that the same seems true of tales of rampant rape and murder at the Superdome.

    It’s all good news, but not many people are looking at this emerging pattern of ghoulish hype we apparently got during the first week after Katrina. To the contrary, you get Brian Williams basically saying he doesn’t care if he was emotional in his coverage and CNN promoting Anderson Cooper’s angry anchor act as the model for the future, even having producers encouraging guests to get angry on air. Moreover, with the last Gallup Poll showing the public thought the press was doing a better job than any level of government — a bizzare question to ask given the difference in their functions relating to this disaster — people like Jonathon Klein will only be encouraged to continue in this manner.

    I agree with Lee Harris that rage has its place (JJ agreed here recently, too). But it should be based on accurate information.

  • http://none Elliot

    Some stories did quote officials’ death toll predictions. Others simply stated the figures with no attribution. There’s a big difference.

  • Glyn

    EverKarl – since when did you start believing a British liberal newspaper like the Guardian which you’ve linked to? But we can agree that it’s not “It’s all good news”, instead but thankfully it’s just not as bad news, still very bad.

  • joefrommass

    Perhap the press could have asked this simple question of the Mayor “How did you arrive at the 10,000 deaths estimate?” The press did a terrible job in this case.

  • http://ruthcalvo Ruth

    Sad to see that so many of the very posts constantly charging that the media only reports the bad news from Iraq are now harping on the stories of looting and mayhem from NO, ignoring the successful resettlement of great numbers going on peacefully throughout these United States. One young girl has relocated at the Community College here, another at a private liberal arts college, after theirs washed away in NO. Room, board and tuition are being paid by the institution but they’re in need of basic necessities. Fundraisers are scheduled.

  • kat

    Another lie that needs correcting is the story you quoted about that moonbat broussard, and those of us who thought he was a drama queen were called heartless.
    {The blog WuzzaDem.com uncovered the truth-stretching rhetoric of Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard’s account he shared on “Meet the Press” Sept. 4 as he emotionally complained about lack of federal response to Katrina victims.

    Remember Broussard’s story broadcast on the NBC news show:
    The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in a St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” And he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.” And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.
    The Friday night Broussard is talking about was Sept. 2, but it turns out the woman actually died Aug. 29, the previous Monday, when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.}

  • Mr. Apropos

    {quote}
    Listen, they quoted a public official and had no basis to question, disprove, or verify that estimate.
    {/quote}

    I’m sorry, but I found that statement very funny.

    If that 10,000 number had been quoted by the folks in the White House, that same group of reporters would personally be out there with buckets in an attempt to be the first to count the 10,000th body. (I also think if our federal government told reporters the sun would rise in the east, they’d pay crews to film it on the off chance the administration lied.) But, because it was a local public official, they had no basis to questions?

    I’m just a computer nerd, but isn’t verifying information a pretty big part of being a journalist?

  • Superwoody

    “I’m just a computer nerd, but isn’t verifying information a pretty big part of being a journalist?”

    Not when you are trying to make ANY republican look bad to the rest of the country. Just ask Dan Rather!

  • Angelos

    They even faked turning the power on for Bush’s speech

    “I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It’s enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it… jump to certain conclusions.”

  • Angelos

    Propping up the adminisrtation, one press whore at a time
    http://www.presstitutes.com/

  • jj

    The MSM was hysterical in its coverage of Katrina. Time and again in its coverage, whether at the dome or elsewhere, the coverage was shoddy and sloppy. Why should journalists be emotional? They are professionals, supposedly, they keep telling us, and yet they get emotional and get it wrong. The journalist errors have nothing to do with how horrible Katrina was nor does that horribleness excuse their errors. It doesn’t take much journalism expoerience to know that when you have a completely distraught witness his information may not be very good. The New Orleans mayor was obviously distraught, maybe even hysterical himself. One minute he is literally in tears, one minutes he is runting, one mione he is saying there are thousands, ten thousand dead. Journalist say they can be emotional and make mistakes, even though they are professionals? What if a law enforcement officer had become emotional during the flooding and shot a dozen people who we walking away with televsion sets. Do you think the MSM would have forgiven that?

  • EverKarl

    Glyn asks when I started believing the liberal Guardian. The answer is that I read many sources in order to evaluate stories and assertions on a case-by-case basis, regardless of the general slant of the publisher. However, in this case, I could have just as easily cite this Washington Post story suggesting that some of the rumors were just that — rumors. Which isn’t to say that there may have been crimes committed in the dome. It is to say that if you claim that two small children had their throats slit, I would want some corroboration.

  • http://blogoland.blogspot.com Jon

    Have you caught Prof. Reynolds’s harping on this? I just don’t get it, and your 9/11 comparison was the first thing that lept to my mind, as well. I’m afriad these people are being blinded by reflexive media-hatred.

  • Glyn

    Corroboration is fine but there is also a trade-off for newspapers etc to report what responsible people tell them are the facts as quickly as possible, rather than risk leaving people in the dark, and then modify the reports as more evidence comes to light. Otherwise they aren’t journalists, they’re historians.

    If, today, officials say that up to X hundred people died in New Orleans, shouldn’t be reported? As a matter of interest, is there a latest estimate for the death toll, or is that currently irrelevant to the public?

  • jj

    At that stage of the continuing events of Katrina was it even necessary or advisable to be using any kind of body count. Does the journalist need to continue to pander to this constant desire in everything for a body count. Body Counts are a lazy way of reporting. A good journalist should be able to show and tell how bad things are without exact body counts. Anyone watching the Katrina aftermath could tell it was horrible without having a body count. And I still say a reporter must use better judgement when interviewing officals that are obviously overwrought and not thinking clearly or trying to divert attention from their own failures..

  • Eileen

    “Listen, they quoted a public official and had no basis to question, disprove, or verify that estimate. There were no facts.”

    Listen, Jeff, they haven’t provided *facts* throughout their purported coverage of Katrina. It’s been a war on Bush via leftist MSM spin from the gitgo. Every detail, and every *fact* has been of that design. Oh, just tonight there was another correction regarding a white woman they showed (repeatedly) at the dome who was crying about her baby who was so hot and dehydrated. They had earlier reported the baby died. Well, no, now the baby didn’t die at all.

    In an earlier post, you were ‘expectant’ that when the real stories of the survivors came out, Bush/FEMA would be found to be even more culpable. You were all over *immediately* blaming the Feds, just like the rest of MSM.

    But apparently that’s not the case according to actual survivors at the dome:

    http://newsbusters.org/node/1201

    I’ve predicted greater Federal powers in the aftermath of Katrina. Now I also predict a shift in allegiance will occur by black constituents to the Republican party. The why is obvious: the only people who *succeeded* in getting those people out of there were the Feds – and Bush. It definitely wasn’t the locals. And the people who got saved there know that. MSM’s demonization of the facts, coupled with their *utter failure* to question, report, or focus on Democratically run LA and NO in the process, is only another nail in their own coffins. Playing the race card is another rusty nail.

    And the only reason they ran with the Nagin figure without even questionning or otherwise investigating it, is because it immediately enhanced their ‘Bush is the (only) bad guy’ feeding frenzy.

    F- is too good a grade for them; they are off all credible charts. Even according to the poor, black survivors.

  • kat

    Well said, Eileen. The ABC interview is no different than all the CNN–baiting people to get a desired anti-Bush response. If they get a pro-Bush response the interview ends abruptly. MSM still believes they are a ‘religion’ and the flock will follow and not think for themselves. That may be true of some, but the majority of Americans are too smart. If Dan Rather or CNN say Bush it, people don’t necessarily believe it,especially when they go to such pains to protect fellow leftists who screwed up in the evacuation. Mayor Nagin must have the cleanest ass in America after all that kissing by the the Left on his behind.
    Meanwhile the poster moonbat of the left is calling for the US to withdraw troops from occupied New Orleans. No end to leftist lunacy and Michael Moore and Arianna endorse her moonbat club.
    http://www.drudgereport.com/flash.htm

  • kat

    CNN had Donna Brazille on when they were trying to slam Bush–will they have her on to discuss this?? Or is this not what they want us to hear–does not fit their agenda for us.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/16/AR2005091602167.html
    { I did not vote for George W. Bush — in fact, I worked pretty hard against him in 2000 and 2004. But on Thursday night, after watching him speak from the heart, I could not have been prouder of the president………………..}
    {I know, maybe better than anyone, that there are times when it seems that our nation is too divided ever to heal. There are times when we feel so different from each other that we can hardly believe that we are all part of the same family. But we are one nation. We are a family. And this is what we do. When the president asked us to pitch in Thursday night, he wasn’t really asking us to do anything spectacular. He was asking us to be Americans, and to do what Americans always do.}

  • http://flamingflivvers.blogspot.com/ Carson Fire

    Listen, Jeff, they haven’t provided *facts* throughout their purported coverage of Katrina.

    Eileen’s right, but notice that even Jeff is already talking about handing out the awards?

    Few in the press deserve any trophies for their performance this time around.

    Apparently, one of the prime factors in the disaster has yet to even be reported by “journalists” in the context it deserves. People we know coming out of NO are asking us why nobody seems to have heard anything about the barge. As far as I can tell, the press isn’t talking about it, and blogs aren’t talking about it. There was finally some scant mention of it buried inside of Houston Chronicle story yesterday simply headlined Lawyers plan for waves of litigation. Third paragraph from the end:

    Becnel is counting on million-dollar damage awards or settlements. Citing statements by the Army Corps of Engineers, he says that a barge tore loose from its moorings and caused the devastating levee breach on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans. He plans to sue the barge’s owner and its insurance carriers.

    The left has been braying at Bush for saying that we didn’t expect this. *This* was *not* expected. The levy could have been twice as high and still been hit by that loose barge. Federal fundings could have been doubled or tripled and that levy still would have been hit by that loose barge.

    Anyway, if this info is accurate, the prime reason for the disaster — apart from Katrina itself — seems to be a non-story to the same “professionals” who gave us a photo of an action figure for a hostage last year and 1970s memos typed on MS Word.

    Yes, let’s start handing out them Pulitzers!

  • http://flamingflivvers.blogspot.com/ Carson Fire

    Aha! I knew as soon as I posted that, I’d *finally* find somebody else mentioning it. Rich Lowry (also yesterday):

    The ”more funding for levees” argument perpetuates a common misperception. The long-standing earthen levees surrounding the city did not fail. It was the floodwalls around the drainage canals that protrude into New Orleans that were overwhelmed. One breach seems to have been caused by a barge breaking loose from its moorings and battering down one of the walls. Will Nancy Pelosi now accuse Bush of underfunding barge moorings?

    You have to think that the reason that the liberal MSM is skating so deftly around reporting these extremely relevant facts is that it not only doesn’t help to pile on to Bush, but tends to diffuse the piling on somewhat.

    Get angry, MSM! Show your teeth! Yell about things you don’t know about! Get a Pulitzer! Grrr!

  • Eileen

    I have to say, kat, that I was impressed with Brazille’s comments. She is usually so strident.

    Wake up MSM! [Nah, you won’t. You’re way too entrenched to see yourselves – much LESS report upon – the *facts* in the midst of your myopia.] Only the poor, black survivors see Katrina clearly.

    But you’re about to see how you’ve kicked yourselves in your own asses ‘big time’ due to your malignant, myopic spin machine. You’ve just sealed your own deal. How do you spell too many truisms to characterize it?

    Let’s just go back to Brazille’s comments (in this case at least). She’s got it right in those quotes.

    Horrors! A conservative would agree with *the enemy*? Would *the enemy* ever agree with a conservative? No. And that’s your real problem. Rabid Myopia.

    And yes, Carson Fire, I found more reports on the barge as I googled it tonight. But will MSM ever report about it? It took two weeks for MSNBC to ‘flash’ a copy of Nagin’s evacuation plan on the screen.

    *Facts* will continue to emerge. In spite of the NON-fact reporting, dinosaur MSM.

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