Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Week the Media Died

Jonah Goldberg noticed that in all of the retrospectives on Katrina last week, that there was one significant story that was not covered: "the unmitigated media disaster." Mr. Goldberg writes:

TV reporters raced to the bottom to see who could moralistically preen the most. Interviewers transformed into outright scolds of administration officials.

Meanwhile, the distortions, exaggerations and flat-out fictions being offered by New Orleans officials were accelerated and amplified by the media echo chamber. Glib predictions of 10,000 dead, and the chief of police’s insistence that there were “little babies getting raped,” swirled around the media like so much free-flowing sewage.It was as though journalistic skepticism of government officials was reserved for the White House, and everyone else got a free pass.

Of course the Bush administration made serious mistakes — politically, logistically and otherwise — in a difficult situation. But Katrina unleashed a virus of sanctimony and credulity for urban legends almost without precedent.

Reports of the Superdome being a slaughterhouse were repeated, even though dozens of news organizations had access to the building. CBS alone had 200 people in New Orleans, and yet it couldn’t find those bodies stacked to the ceiling or a single rape victim from the roving bands of Mad Max-style marauders. That’s because nobody was raped or murdered in the Superdome.


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