Saturday, September 3, 2005

Reporters vs. politicians: Getting at the truth

I am watching "Nightline" right now and am SO ANGRY at the bungled rescue efforts in New Orleans. Yea, I know there is massive damage to highways and transportation. But if we could airdrop water to the tsunami areas, why did it take us so damn long to do it in New Orleans. Old people and babies are dying. This is wrong. This is not supposed to happen in America.

On the other hand, I am SO PROUD of many of the reporters covering the story. They are talking to the people WHO MATTER - the people waiting to be rescued - and reporters are becoming rightlfully indignant at the appalling conditions. Even better, the reporters are hammering hard at the politicians. Who is in charge, the reporters ask? Why is help taking so long? When will these people be evacuated? How did things get this bad? All good questions.

I didn't even mind when Geraldo Rivera held up a baby and weeped. If his outrage and weeping gets some help to those folks in the Convention Center, then all the better. We have all this freakin' 24/7 coverage. Let's use it.

Click on the link below for a good example of tough journalism in which CNN analyzed what politicians were saying vs. what was REALLY happening at the scene. An excerpt follows:

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Diverging views of a crumbling New Orleans emerged Thursday, with statements by some federal officials in contradiction with grittier, more desperate views from the streets. By late Friday response to those stranded in the city was more visible.

But the conflicting views on Thursday came within hours, sometimes minutes of each of each other, as reflected in CNN's transcripts. The speakers include Michael Brown, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, evacuee Raymond Cooper, CNN correspondents and others. Here's what they had to say:

Conditions in the Convention Center

  • FEMA chief Brown: We learned about that (Thursday), so I have directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need. (See video of Brown explaining how news reports alerted FEMA to convention center chaos. -- 2:11)

  • Mayor Nagin: The convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and we are running out of supplies for the 15,000 to 20,000 people. (Hear Nagin's angry demand for soldiers. 1:04)

  • CNN Producer Kim Segal: It was chaos. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children, you should see them, they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw... people who are dying in front of you.

  • Evacuee Raymond Cooper: Sir, you've got about 3,000 people here in this -- in the Convention Center right now. They're hungry. Don't have any food. We were told two-and-a-half days ago to make our way to the Superdome or the Convention Center by our mayor. And which when we got here, was no one to tell us what to do, no one to direct us, no authority figure.
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