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I'll probably get flamed, but can we tone down the media "reporting" about dead bodies left by Katrina?

Category Everything Else

When it comes to the media, I'm pretty cynical anymore.  When public officials start throwing about large numbers and terms like "catastrophic", I start to wonder...  Is that reality?  Is it the person trying to get noticed above the rest of the media din?  Is this an attempt to focus more government aid?  Will the media only listen and quote things that register higher on the hype scale?

Real numbers about deaths related to Katrina seem to be hard to come by.  It's almost as if no one wants to try and come up with a full account to date.  I know if I were a government official in charge of emergency preparedness, I'm not sure I'd want to see those numbers either.  But officials have thrown out statements about "thousands" of bodies yet to be found, and now every news story reports on those thousands as if it's a reality.  It may well be the case, and it wouldn't be totally unexpected, but I'm starting to tire of media reporting of "facts" that aren't yet so.

I'd much prefer to see real counts and reports on the progress of recovering the missing.  It's been said that we need to "prepare" ourselves for the large number of deaths that will come from Katrina.  True, but all the hype that is currently out there in the media is just numbing us to the reality, whatever it might be.  It's almost as if we want to report on "potentially 10000 or more deaths" so that we can feel relieved if there are "only" a couple of thousand.

Any way you approach it, Katrina has caused more devastation in a populated area than anything in recent memory.  While this part of the ordeal is bad, I still think the worst is yet to come with health concerns about the water toxicity and the mass demolitions of housing that will follow once the city is drained.  This is a disaster that will continue to have repercussions for years to come...

Comments

Gravatar Image1 - The media already did a huge disservice to people stranded there by emphasizing the looting early on. They may it sound like the place was under attack. I remember one of the CNN people reporting that bus drivers refused to drive into the city because they were worried about their safety.

Gravatar Image2 - Hi Ben,

Even if your theory is true, it´s no by no means possible that the press intends to do something like that. Maybe officials that pass out numbers pursue a tactic like that. Not the press. If any news station had a somewhat proven number - or if not proven it better come from someone famous - it would be happy to present this number first even - or better yet, and that´s the sad part: especially - if it said that there were millions dead.

Basically, there is no excuse for this sensation hungry behaviour.

Gravatar Image3 - And on that, Ben, we are in violent agreement. Although I'm more Republican in political bent, this adminstration disgusts me. I sat and watched a general at some press conference yesterday make the assertion that the military had been adequately prepared for this, and in fact had been involved before being asked.

Say what???

The press *should* be pressuring the government for accountability. And so far efforts to sweep it all under the rug aren't going away (for which I'm glad).

Gravatar Image4 - Have you considered that it may be the other way around? That the number is slowly being raised so if it turns out to be 30,000 instead of 10,000, we won't be as shocked? When thousands of people are refusing to leave, it leaves open a question of just how many were left in the city before the flooding begin. Before all of this began, the city estimated that 150,000 would stay in this sort of circumstance. If 80,000 have been evacuated, and 10,000 are staying (pulling numbers out of a hat), where are the other 60,000? I think that is the real fear, whether or not it is truly justified. Of course, it is not clear when and whether we will ever know, given that many of the dead may have to be buried in mass graves simply to prevent any more spread of disease and due to massive decay. Still, I think 10,000 may be optimistic.

Of course, maybe I'm just being negative and gloomy.

Gravatar Image5 - Good point, Ben... But Ralph's explanation is more along the lines of what I'd expect if that were the case. If the mayor of NOLA said during a press conference that "estimates of dead could be 30000 or more", I have no doubt that every news story from that point forward would talk about the "grim task of recovering nearly 30000 bloated corpses hidden away in attics".

The news is going to be bad. I'd just prefer it be bad reality, not bad hype and speculation, repeated as fact.

Gravatar Image6 - I agree about the emphasis on looting, but I think that the media in general, and CNN in particular, have done a great job otherwise in focusing and shaming the government into doing more.

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