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LAT on media accuracy

Who better to discuss media accuracy than the Los Angeles Times?
"Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy" discusses the recent spate of articles downplaying violence in NO after the hurricane, discusses yesterday's NOLA piece, and has some examples of reporting it now says has been discredited.
First, here's the Oprah bits:

Mayor C. Ray Nagin told a national television audience on "Oprah" three weeks ago of people "in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."
...Compass told of "the little babies getting raped" at the Superdome. And Nagin made his claim about hooligans raping and killing.

Then, the LAT is forced to confront something that no doubt offended their delicate sensibilities:

Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.
"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."

And, here are some other examples they provide:

Fox News, a day before the major evacuation of the Superdome began, issued an "alert" as talk show host Alan Colmes reiterated reports of "robberies, rapes, carjackings, riots and murder. Violent gangs are roaming the streets at night, hidden by the cover of darkness."
The Los Angeles Times adopted a breathless tone the next day in its lead news story, reporting that National Guard troops "took positions on rooftops, scanning for snipers and armed mobs as seething crowds of refugees milled below, desperate to flee. Gunfire crackled in the distance."
The New York Times repeated some of the reports of violence and unrest, but the newspaper usually was more careful to note that the information could not be verified.
The tabloid Ottawa Sun reported unverified accounts of "a man seeking help gunned down by a National Guard soldier" and "a young man run down and then shot by a New Orleans police officer."
London's Evening Standard invoked the future-world fantasy film "Mad Max" to describe the scene and threw in a "Lord of the Flies" allusion for good measure.

"Broadcasters contributed to deaths"

Rita Kepner, who "has worked as an on-call responder and public information officer helping with disaster communication for more than 20 years. She is now a Ph.D. student at the Washington State University Edward R. Murrow School of Communication" says:

Politicians are not the only ones to blame after Hurricane Katrina. National broadcast managers are guilty, too. They did their job but not the right one.
By showing reporters settling in to stay to New Orleans and other areas -- after the mandatory evacuation -- they sent the message to many that it would be safe to stay. That cost lives. History and research show that reporters can cover the news and help save lives...
For a multistate disaster, such as Katrina, only the national media can get multistate messages to potential victims. They could have broadcast the "canned preparedness messages" that emergency managers and public information officers have been begging them to use. If they said "LEAVE NOW this is a MANDATORY evacuation," tens of thousands more might have moved to safety...
...In the past, many broadcasters have used their power to save lives. This time, the national broadcast media contributed to misery and loss of life. It was not their intent to do harm, but they did. That should never happen again.

NYT brings out snark for Bush Rita trip

David E. Sanger of the New York Times gives us a peek inside his "Reporter's Notebook" and describes Bush's trip to Colorado and other locations to observe the response to Hurricane Rita. From "In This Storm, White House Tries to Take New Tack":

But unlike the events that have defined his presidency so far - the response to Sept. 11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq - the reality was that there weren't many decisions for the president to make. Rescue and recovery is very different than retaliation and war.

Say what now? I thought that during Katrina Bush was supposed to have immediately flown to New Orleans and started driving a bus. Instead, there's very little for him to do? I'm confused.

No matter. As the country's attention was fixed on its television sets, Mr. Bush was pictured in command centers, a deliberate effort by the White House to strike a different image than the one that dominated a month ago. Here in the state capital, the second of three stops in sun-splashed cities that missed Hurricane Rita's wrath, Mr. Bush headed to the underground Emergency Operations Center, run by the Texas Department of Public Safety...
Partly because Mr. Bush did not want to add to those clogged highways, he stayed away from Houston and the rest of the affected region...

As previously pointed out, "liberals" want it both ways. They wanted Bush to show up in New Orleans immediately, but when he did they complained that he disrupted recovery efforts.

But however tantalizingly close, the ranch [previously referred to as "his beloved ranch"] was clearly off-limits on this trip. The last night Mr. Bush spent there was just after the levees broke in New Orleans. While he returned to Washington the next day, flying over the flooded city on the way, his initial presence at the ranch and images of him viewing the disaster from the climate-controlled comfort of Air Force One reinforced the image of a leader detached. No one could afford that on Saturday...
...In the past Mr. Bush has told reporters how much he has come to rely on the "secure video telecommunications system" at the White House, which allows him to talk to commanders in Baghdad or to Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. He had the system installed on Air Force One, at Camp David and in a trailer across the dirt road from his ranch.
On Saturday, he tapped into it in Colorado Springs for hurricane coordination, bringing in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and military commanders in Louisiana and Texas. He also brought in officials at the White House situation room, a 45-second stroll from the Oval Office. But for Mr. Bush, this was one conference he couldn't conduct from the comfort of home.

NYT publishes Geraldo Rivera correction

Two bad tastes that deserve each other, the New York Times and Geraldo Rivera, were recently locked in a death spiral over an NYT report which claimed that Fox's least worthy reporter staged a rescue photo op. It's now been resolved, their Public Editor reports in "Even Geraldo Deserves a Fair Shake" (Another writeup here).
On Sep. 5, the NYT's Alessandra Stanley's reported in her TV Watch column:
"Some reporters helped stranded victims because no police officers or rescue workers were around. (Fox's Geraldo Rivera did his rivals one better: yesterday, he nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety.)"
Needless to say, the self-styled reporter took umbrage and threatened to sue. The self-styled newspaper held firm:

The Times informed Fox on Sept. 7 that no correction would be published. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, personally made the final decision after "multiple viewings of the videotape in question," he told me in a Sept. 8 e-mail message that defended his ruling and was later provided to other journalists.

However, the ombudsman continues:

My viewings of the videotape - at least a dozen times, including one time frame by frame - simply doesn't show me any "nudge" of any Air Force rescuer by Mr. Rivera. (Ms. Stanley declined my invitation to watch the tape with me.)...
...So if Ms. Stanley couldn't have seen the nudge, why not publish a correction? Mr. Keller's message unfortunately turns to a line of reasoning that raises, for me, a basic question of journalistic fairness. He suggests, "frankly," that in light of Mr. Rivera's reaction to the review, Ms. Stanley "would have been justified in assuming" - and therefore writing, apparently - that Mr. Rivera used "brute force" rather than merely a "nudge" on Sept. 4. (One of the on-air threats cited by Mr. Keller, however, actually was made by Bill O'Reilly.)
I find it disturbing that any Times editor would come so close to implying - almost in a tit-for-tat sense - that Mr. Rivera's bad behavior essentially entitles the paper to rely on assumptions and refuse to correct an unsupported fact...

NPR on BBC, Southern Culture, and Deliverance

NPR's ombudsman discovers that the Beeb is even more biased than they are:

Specifically, the BBC appears to be focusing on the oddities of American culture and politics. There have been numerous interviews with spokespersons that seem to represent a view of America straight out of movies like Deliverance or In The Heat of the Night. They don't sound like anything that would be heard on NPR.
The BBC also seems to portray aspects of Southern culture in a less than flattering light, especially in its interviews with local religious leaders who see Katrina as divine retribution for New Orleans' "sinfulness."
I am sure that the BBC is not inventing these interviews. But the effect is that it sounds less like reporting than like caricature. Public radio listeners likely understand what is going on -- that BBC cultural assumptions about the United States remain mired in a reflex European opposition to American foreign policy. But what comes through the radio sounds mean-spirited and not particularly helpful; it probably evokes knowing glances and smirks among editors and producers back in London.
There is more right than wrong in the BBC's coverage. But when it comes to portraying certain American cultural expressions, the BBC seems to have a tin ear.
Listeners, I suspect, may be left wondering how to reconcile the differences between NPR and the BBC that they hear from their public radio stations.

AP gets Gretna police chief on defensive

The AP reports that the Gretna police chief is defending himself against charges of racism:
Police Chief Denies Race Role in Blockade

The police chief in a New Orleans suburb is defending himself against accusations of racism for ordering the blockade of a bridge and turning back desperate hurricane refugees.

The word "suburb", although perhaps accurate (or perhaps not since it's directly across a bridge from NO) is probably intended to cause you to think "white".
And those news orgs love getting people on the defensive, don't they?
And, of course, there's the word "desperate", perhaps designed to prejudice you against the chief.
This article doesn't have much information beyond the LAT article, and I'm sure I could have created the AP article from the LAT article if I had to. Whether it's just a summary of the LAT article is unknown.
Also here as "Suburban Police Chief Says Race Played No Role in Blockade of Bridge to New Orleans".

Finke on the corporate media vs. the truthseekers

From Nikki Finke:

At first, only CNN appeared not to have thoroughly read the proverbial memo. It was the only network, on air and on its Web site, to compare and contrast the wildly contradictory statements by federal, state and local officials, sometimes within hours, but often within minutes of each other...
Then the fix was in.
On September 8, CNN anchorette Kyra Phillips was chewing into House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for "continuing to criticize the administration, and criticize the director of FEMA... I think it's unfair that FEMA is just singled out. There are so many people responsible for what has happened in the state of Louisiana."
Instead of smiling through clenched teeth, the San Francisco Democrat bit back: "I'm sorry that you think it's unfair. But I don't . . . If you want to make a case for the White House, you should go on their payroll."

Yes, it's a shame how CNN verged from the Democratic Party's memo.

...If big media look like they're propping up W's presidency, they are...

Is this column a HuffPo reject? Just asking!
I'm sure she's got somewhat of a point but her "liberalism" gets in the way of doing a complete treatment of the issue.

"ABC Stunned: Evacuees Don't Blame Bush"

After Bush's big speech, ABC's Nightline tried to get some interesting sound bites. They failed:

...[DEAN] REYNOLDS: Did you harbor any anger toward the president because of the slow federal response?
LONDON: No. None whatsoever, because I feel like our city and our state government should have been there before the federal government was called in. They should have been on their jobs.
REYNOLDS: And they weren't?
LONDON: No. No, no, no. Lord, they wasn't. I mean, they had RTA busses, Greyhound buses, school buses, that was just sitting there going underwater when they could have been evacuating people...

No doubt all the people ABC interviewed were just Karl Rove plants.
For more, see "To ABC's Surprise, Katrina Victims Praise Bush and Blame Nagin".

Report on weather forecasts sneaks in snark

The MSNBC article "Katrina forecasters were remarkably accurate" (subtitled "Levee breaks, catastrophic damage predicted, contrary to Bush claims") has an overview of the weather-related timeline and warnings. Plus, it manages to sneak in some anti-Bush asides:

For all the criticism of the Bush administration's confused response to Hurricane Katrina, at least two federal agencies got it right: the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center.

Here are some of their points:
- Aug. 28: while in Crawford, Bush watched a Max Mayfield presentation
- Aug. 29: National Hurricane Center issued warning with "SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED". (MSNBC points out that was in capitals, but I guess they all are)
- Sep. 1: Bush says, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees"

Mayfield and Paul Trotter, the meteorologist in charge of the Slidell office, both refused to criticize the federal response.
But Mayfield said: "The fact that we had a major hurricane forecast over or near New Orleans is reason for great concern. The local and state emergency management knew that as well as FEMA did."


Mayfield also did something he rarely does before a hurricane hits: He personally called the governors of Mississippi and Louisiana and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin two days ahead of time to warn them about the monstrous hurricane. Nagin has said he ordered an evacuation because Mayfield's call "scared the hell" out of him.

Also, for you Rick Santorum fans:

AccuWeather Inc. senior meteorologist Michael Steinberg said emergency managers and the public could have been given an earlier warning of Katrina's threat to New Orleans. He said the private company had issued forecasts nearly 12 hours earlier than the hurricane center warning that Katrina was aiming at the area.

Brian Williams: Bush turns out lights after he leaves town

From Brian Williams:

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... 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.

If Bush had left the generators he brought in with him behind, Williams would be the first to say it was all for show and wondering why he didn't bring enough generators for the whole city.
Of course, if it were Bubba that had taken the generators, Williams would have either ignored it or apologized it away. If he'd left them, Williams would have praised his munificent gesture.
These people are just too easy.


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