More On The Media’s Failures

The Washington Post has another piece on how media sensationalism harmed the rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Five weeks after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans, some local, state and federal officials have come to believe that exaggerations of mayhem by officials and rumors repeated uncritically in the news media helped slow the response to the disaster and tarnish the image of many of its victims.

Claims of widespread looting, gunfire directed at helicopters and rescuers, homicides, and rapes, including those of “babies” at the Louisiana Superdome, frequently turned out to be overblown, if not completely untrue, officials now say.

The sensational accounts delayed rescue and evacuation efforts already hampered by poor planning and a lack of coordination among local, state and federal agencies. People rushing to the Gulf Coast to fly rescue helicopters or to distribute food, water and other aid steeled themselves for battle. In communities near and far, the seeds were planted that the victims of Katrina should be kept away, or at least handled with extreme caution.

The sensationalistic reporting by the media cost valuable time and potentially lives. It flooded critically important communication channels with unfounded rumors, hampering rescue efforts and confusing first responders. The media’s first goal in an emergency is to get people the right information about where to go and what to do. Instead, the media took any rumor it could get its hands on and spread it uncritically and unthinkingly – which means that horror stories like the 30-40 dead at the Convention Center – stories which were utterly false – were spread as truth across the media.

The story also contains this gem:

“The television stations were reporting that people were literally stepping over bodies and violence was out of control,” said Blanco press secretary Denise Bottcher, who was at the governor’s side. “But the National Guardsmen were saying that what we were seeing on CNN was contradictory to what they were seeing. It didn’t match up.”

That should sound familiar to people who have been paying attention to the real story of the war in Iraq.

It is becoming painfully evident that the media has an agenda, and that agenda has overwhelmed any semblance of journalistic ethics. The media’s hatred of the Bush Administration has shaped the media’s coverage of events, ensuring that most stories in the mainstream media – even ones on unrelated topics – are steeped in an endemic cultural bias. Bloggers have made careers out of pointing out the many transparent examples of media bias, yet the media’s institutional arrogance is causing them to try to hold onto their crumbling worldview despite declining readership and ratings.

In an emergency, accurate information is one of the most important lifesaving tools the average citizen can have. If the media cannot provide that, then the media is only serving to add to the chaos, which is unacceptable. The slipshod reporting that came out of Hurricane Katrina only confirms why the media is one of the least trusted institutions in American society.

The media’s credibility is sinking rapidly, and if the media can’t get the story right without adding their own lurid embellishments when the story is right in our own backyard, why in the world should we trust the media to accurately and fairly tell us of the events in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else?

10 thoughts on “More On The Media’s Failures

  1. Only the comically opportunistic right wing could find fault with the media for apparently overstating reports of violence in New Orleans…at the same time as you repeatedly shrug off the Bush administration’s fictional accounts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was the rationale for a war responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. I know that I should be used to your antics by now, but you clowns never cease to amaze me.

  2. Only the comically opportunistic right wing could find fault with the media for apparently overstating reports of violence in New Orleans

    So I guess that includes the Washington Post, Gov. Blanco’s staff, and the former Chief of Police for the City of New Orleans, all of whom said the very same thing. So either the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy has taken over the entire world, or you’re just full of shit.

    …at the same time as you repeatedly shrug off the Bush administration’s fictional accounts of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that was the rationale for a war responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

    Yes, because obviously reporting on something that is in the middle of a major American city is the same thing as trying to divine the deepest held secrets of a totalitarian regime in which even the dictator himself didn’t know the true of extent of the situation. That isn’t even an apples and oranges comparison, it’s apples and watermelons.

    I know that I should be used to your antics by now, but you clowns never cease to amaze me.

    And your pompous ignorance never fails to remind everyone who reads your mindless commentary that the left remains morally and intellectually bankrupt.

    But then again, every good court needs a jester…

  3. Those who overstated violence in New Orleans should be taken to task for sloppy reporting, but not by the people who took more than four days to get into town to dispute that claim….and certainly not by the people willing to excuse the Bush administration and the very same “evil media” for WMD fantasies in Iraq.

    “the left remains morally and intellectually bankrupt.”

    Yet the way these Senate and House races are unfolding in the early stages (and with the Republicans in full-fledged division and meltdown), one thing the left does not appear likely to be “bankrupt” on is winning candidates poised to take back the majority for Dems in another 13 months.

  4. So the left is now in complete unity are going to take over, is that the arguement Mark ? How ?Are you guys going to indict all of the republicans running. Ronny Earle will be busy shopping for those grand juries, if it took six or seven with such an obviously “evil” character like Delay, there might not be any one left in Tarvis county. Which won’t stop you but logistically it may be a bit time consuming. Why then haven’t the dems got their favorable numbers up either, why can’t they get any traction if its all going to hell in a handbask for the republicans. What will they run on ? “contract with America” by Howard Dean, wasn’t that a Gingrich (evil evil Newt) idea, now in 2006 it will be the New Deal for you Dem’s , and the 1st promise will be nationalizing the health care system in the USA. That has been a winner every time its tryed, and if Hillary is your candidate in 2008 then she will no doubt have all her notes from the last time she tried.
    The media seems to get stuck on “sloppy” reporting in most of the major stories of our time. Why were the rumors regarding NO so readily accepted as gospel, why is Cindy Scheehan given a pass as far as affiliation and ideology goes, why have we not heard of the two Schumer staffers that pulled the credit report of the rep. lt. governer, why were the predictions about both wars completely inaccurate and full of doom and gloom, why was kerry going to win in 2004, why was Ken Starr villified and Ronny Earle loinized, why do all the whistle blowers in a conservative administration get the Times people of the year award and the Linda Tripps of the world go begging ? Shall I go on ?
    Just a few bad apples ehh, “punish those responsible”, need to purge those individuals from the newsrooms, but then who would be left ?
    Just keep maintaining that alls well and revive that WMD story it sure seems like a winner.

  5. Ray M, what the Democrats lack in leadership party unity they are making up for with top-notch candidate recruitment at the same time as most high-profile Republicans in their respective states are declining offers to run. Two weeks ago, I had very little hope of the Democrats taking over Congress. Now I’m starting to think it’s possible. Let’s look at some of the details in the Senate alone…..

    Arizona–The Democrats are pouring money into candidate (Jon?) Pederson giving him the financing necessary to take down incumbent conservative Jon Kyl in a best-case scenario.

    Florida–The divisive Katherine Harris would be a terrible candidate for the GOP in a defensive year where the “culture of corruption” issue is on the table. The right Congressperson, such as Mark Foley or Bill McCollum, would have a good chance of unseating Bill Nelson…but Harris seems unlikely to. Her candidacy will be more of a Republican ego trip than a serious challenge to an otherwise vulnerable incumbent.

    Maryland–The Republicans have about as good of a candidate as they could expect in MD out of Michael Steele, but whether the Dems go with Ben Cardin or Kweisi Mfume, you gotta like their chances given their huge party affiliation advantage in the state.

    Michigan–Here’s a really pitiful example of Republican incompetence this cycle. Debbie Stabenow is a highly vulnerable incumbent. One would think the GOP would be pulling out all the stops to find a candidate able to defeat her, but so far, the only guy they have is fire-breathing reverend Keith Butler. Hard to imagine a scenario where this seat is even ruled a battleground six months from now unless the GOP gets a Hail Mary pass in the form of a better candidate.

    Minnesota–Mark Kennedy would have been a great candidate for the Republicans on an offensive year, but it doesn’t seem likely that 2006 will be such a year. Early polls show that both of the likely Democratic challengers (Amy Klobuchar and Patty Wetterling) are leading him. Hard to imagine a left-leaning state like Minnesota will choose in favor of two rubber stamps for the Bush administration.

    Mississippi–A longshot, but rumor has it that Trent Lott is considering retirement. Congressman Gene Taylor or former Governor Ronnie Musgrove would be formidable opponents if they could be convinced to run.

    Missouri–Incumbent Republican Jim Talent was expected to skate into a second term, but everything indicates that there’s a firestorm of backlash against Missouri’s all-Republican state and federal delegations of late and a potential for two House seats changing hands along with this Senate seat, where Democrat Claire McCaskill is already tied with Talent in the early polls without having lifted a finger. In a defensive year for his party, it can’t be too comforting for Talent to have a lead in the polls of 0.0 when the election is 13 months away.

    Montana–Incumbent Republican Conrad Burns is neck-deep in the Jack Abramoff scandal, which is likely to be all over the news next summer. Meanwhile, Montana is undergoing something of a Democratic renaissance with wildly popular Governor Brian Schweitzer and a Democratic Legislature. Whether the candidate ends up being moderate DLCer John Morrison or populist farmer/legislator Jon Tester, I anticipate alot of sleepless nights for Conrad Burns next year at this time….and a very solid chance for a Democratic pickup.

    Nebraska–Ben Nelson has dodged two huge bullets already. Had either Tom Osborn or Mike Johanns decided to challenge him, I’m guessing he’d be gone. He’s much safer now, and since he has a 63% approval rating and no big-name challenger, I like his chances….even though no Democrat is ever really safe in blood-red Nebraska.

    Nevada–Jimmy Carter’s son (and a Navy veteran) is now challenging incumbent Republican John Ensign. It’s a longshot, but with an approval rating of only 53%, Ensign isn’t exactly made of steel. Plus Ensign won his first election by assuring Nevadans he’d be able to convince other Republicans to vote against the Yucca Mountain waste dumping proposal. He convinced a grand total of zero additional Republicans. Considering that campaign theme went unmet, why should Nevadans choose in favor of an encore, particularly when it could mean the difference between their own Harry Reid being MINORITY leader or a more influential MAJORITY leader?

    New Jersey–If Jon Corzine is elected Governor next month as is expected, he’ll be able to fill his own Senate seat with another Democrat, and Congressman Bob Menendez is the heavy favorite. With a year of incumbency, NJ’s Democratic lean and Bush’s horrendous approval rating of 33% in the state, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where a Republican can win a Senate seat here.

    New York–If Rudy Giuliani was smart, he would challenged Hillary here, raising his own profile nationally. Even if he had lost, he would have undoubtedly bruised Hillary in her pursuit for the Presidency in ’08….while Giuliani would have most likely raised his own prospects. With that in mind, Hillary only has to do battle with mafia chick Jeanne Pirro who should be wonderfully comical in a debate based on what we’ve seen from her so far. Unless organized crime represents a majority in New York, Hillary should raise her own national profile with a 2-1 victory over Pirro.

    North Dakota–Rove and Cheney just don’t have the pull they used to. There was a time when they could strongarm guys like John Thune and Norm Coleman to do exactly what they wanted in terms of Senatorial campaigns. Clearly that isn’t the case in 2006 as popular GOP Governor John Hoeven has decided against running, virtually assuring incumbent Democrat Kent Conrad of another term with a 20-point or better margin of victory.

    Ohio–This is a thing of beauty. We now have two strong Democratic candidates in Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett, both fully capable of taking down embattled Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. I like both guys, and will thoroughly enjoy watching the race unfold with either one of them being taking the reins. The early poll showed Hackett with an eight-point lead over DeWine. Should be fun…

    Pennsylvania–Watching Rick Santorum succumb to bruising defeat next year is certain to be a highlight of the evening. It would really take a stumble by Bob Casey to piss this slam dunk away. Santorum’s sunniest poll shows him eight points behind Casey.

    Rhode Island–Liberal Republican Lincoln Chaffee is pretty popular in RI, but in a state where Bush has an approval rating of 30%, I wouldn’t want to be running with an (R) next to my name next fall. No matter how lame the Democratic challenger, I expect this race to be close….and there’s always the possibility that Chaffee could switch to the good guys if it made the difference between Senate Majority Leader Sam Brownback or Majority Leader Harry Reid.

    Tennessee–The deep red tide of Tennessee is gonna be hard to overcome, but if anyone can do it, I think Harold Ford can. On the other hand, I’m not expecting much out of Bill Frist’s insider trading problems, so if that fizzles, there could a backlash in the GOP’s favor. Ed Bryant would be a formidable challenger either way since he cuts into Ford’s Memphis base.

    Vermont–Socialist Bernie Sanders is assured of victory here….and mathematically, Sanders independent status wouldn’t be able to keep the Dems from the majority, so it’s a win-win. Sanders would be a fantastic addition to the Senate….the best thing to happen since Paul Wellstone.

    Washington–Maria Cantwell should be highly vulnerable and still is slightly. Yet once again, the GOP was unable to recruit Dino Rossi, the martyr from last year’s gubernatorial race, to challenge her. Sympathy for Rossi’s last-minute defeat would have him a heckuva force, but instead the GOP has only a couple no-accounts to run against Cantwell. Unless one of them turns out to be charismatic as all hell, it’s hard to see how a Republican can win a Senate seat in a state where Bush’s approval rating is 36%

    West Virginia–I was nervous for Robert Byrd when the possible challenge from Charleston Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito seemed imminent, but once again, Rove failed to seal the deal this time. Capito announced this week that she won’t run. There’s a veteran running against Byrd for the GOP now, and that could play well in WV, but without Capito in the running, Byrd’s chances of continuing to soar seem much better.

    Wisconsin–Unless popular Tommy Thompson is convinced to run for the Senate, which seems pretty unlikely, Herb Kohl should cruise into another term.

    Beyond those 21 races, here are the seats most consider safe Democrat….California (Dianne Feinstein)….Connecticut (Joe Lieberman)….Delaware (Thomas Carper)….Hawaii (Daniel Akaka)….Massachusetts (Ted Kennedy)…. and New Mexico (Jeff Bingaman). That’s six seats.

    Safe Republican seats….Indiana (Richard Lugar)…..Maine (Olympia Snowe–assuming she doesn’t change parties and become a Democrat)….Mississippi (Trent Lott–if he runs)….Texas (Kay Bailey Hutchison)…Utah (Orrin Hatch)….Virginia (George Allen–at least under existing circumstances with no solid opposition)….and Wyoming (Craig Thomas). That’s also six seats, if Lott chooses to run.

    At least at this point, blue seems to be the color of 2006 in the U.S. Senate. Will it be enough to win a majority? Hard to say, but I’d rather be in Reid’s shoes next November than Rove’s.

    Even in the House, the Dems only need 14 or 15 seats to pick-up the majority, and have solid chances of picking up seats in Arizona, Colorado, two or maybe even three in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, two or three in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, up to four in Ohio, two or three in Pennsylvania, a couple in Texas (!), Vermont, Virginia, Washington and possibly Wisconsin.

    Hard to see what could stop the donks’ blistering momentum at this point. 🙂

  6. gotta love Mark’s reply….”comically opportunistic right wing could find fault with the media for apparently overstating reports of violence…”. Mark, sad indeed, when you cannot trust the presenters of information in this society; when you must ‘shop’ around on the internet for all angles to a story; when it ain’t the media–it’s BUSH! that creates natural tragedies. holy cow. your momma needs to slap some since into you, my friend.

  7. I often have fits when the internet is not available. I go into DT’s when I cannot find any news because the only thing on the boob toob happens to be the CNN where the news is not news.

    But it is always a joy to check out Brittany Spears brests. At least I know those are firm.

  8. Some good info Mark, however the idea that at this early stage that your predicting a 14-15 seat pick up on the House side is not a real indication of anything, like polling the potential voters. Let me slap some Michael Barone magic on you to counter the cut and paste from the DNC fundraising literature.

    “District loyalty. As for the House, we now know which presidential candidate carried each of the 435 congressional districts, thanks to Polidata, which crunched the numbers for National Journal and the Almanac of American Politics (of which I am coauthor). These numbers surprised even some political pros. Bush carried 255 districts and John Kerry only 180. In all, 41 Democrats represent Bush districts and 18 Republicans represent Kerry districts. Eliminating the districts where the House member’s presidential candidate won 47 percent or more, we find only five Republicans in strong Kerry districts but 30 Democrats in strong Bush districts. Why did Bush carry 59 percent of the districts while winning 51 percent of the popular vote? One reason is that winners usually carry a disproportionate share of districts. Another is gerrymandering, which favored Republicans this cycle. One more is the Voting Rights Act, which encourages concentrations of blacks and Hispanics in a few districts that Democrats usually carry heavily while losing adjacent seats.

    The implications? In the long run, Republicans are well positioned to increase their numbers in both the Senate and the House. Some Democrats hold seats because of personal popularity or moderate voting records. But when they retire, Republicans may well succeed them. In the short run, very few Republicans run great political risks by supporting Bush. Significantly more Democrats run great political risks by opposing him. Obstruction doesn’t work well for Democrats in Bush seats: Just ask former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. And at the moment, on Social Security, as Democrats Stan Greenberg and James Carville wrote last month, “Voters are looking for reform, change, and new ideas, but Democrats seem stuck in concrete.”

    Of course the 2004 election figures are not etched in stone. The balance between the parties can change. But it hasn’t changed much since 1996, and recent movement has been toward Republicans. Or so the hard numbers say.”

    Michael Barone USANews, The Hardest Numbers

    I really don’t look toward the MSM to let me know that the things are looking good for Dems and not so good for republicans, since they are always looking good for the Dems but I thought this article would be benifical for you and the rest of the readers of why I am not so certain of your analysis. I look to a certain # of writers to let me know whats going on, and then try to make sure they give me more substantial information than the “polls”, seems they always get it wrong.

  9. Ray, my analysis is admittedly rudimentary. There are number of things that could change the dynamic I’ve outlined in favor of the GOP, not the least of which is last-minute recruitment of more credible Republican Senate candidates in states like Washington and Michigan.

    The power of incumbency is almost like voluntary servitude in House races, but strangely, that is not the case in the Senate, where Senators of varying lengths of tenure have been sent home by voters. Take a look at all the incumbent Senators taken down in just the last three election cycles. Democrats–Max Cleland, Jean Carnahan, Tom Daschle and Charles Robb. Republicans–Tim Hutchinson, William Roth, Spencer Abraham, Rod Grams, John Ashcroft, Slade Gorton and Rick Santorum (oops, not yet, but soon WIth that in mind, it’s easier to imagine six Senate seats turning blue next year than 15 House seats, particularly since moderate blue state Republicans such as Rob Simmons (CT-02) and the GOPers from suburban Philadelphia would have to fall for the Dems to take over.

    As for Barone’s comments, when did he make them? If they were made last January, they’re obsolete as the public approval for the President and the Republican Congress have plunged since then. Whether the Democrats will be able to capitalize on the GOP’s endless self-inflicted meltdown remains to be seen, but suggesting that outcomes of the 2002 and 2004 elections represent a long-term trendline is probably naive as the same thing could have been said 10 months after the 1992 election. We know how long that lasted.

    The Democrats do have a serious problem in the South. With the Democratic base evacuated from Louisiana, one of our last two Southern footholds (the other being Arkansas) has likely went the way of Tennessee. But since Bush betrayed the evangelicals with his Supreme Court nomination, who knows if even the South’s allegiance to the GOP can be depended upon in upcoming election cycles. Every indication is that the red-trending Missouri has had it with one-party government, and that would prove a serious loss to the current GOP alignment. Furthermore, the Democrats are making serious inroads in the West (Montana, Colorado, Nevada) and may still be able to crack Ohio, all of which could conceivably offset the Republican tidal wave in the Southern and border states.

    I agree with Greenberg and Carville that the Dems need at least some national policy initiatives to be taken seriously. Rumor has it they are planning to follow through with that next summer, Contract with America-style. Resistance towards this realization thus far has stemmed from the difficulty of bridging the ideological schism between the Dems’ disparate factions. A national policy approach that may help win seats in Ohio could lose seats in suburban New Jersey and Connecticut…and vice versa.

    And by the way, the “mainstream media” isn’t telling you how good things are looking for for the Dems….I am. The MSM doesn’t report on the inside baseball of Congressional race development 13 months before the election. The best-case scenario I outlined above is just that, and will require Republicans to continue making one mistake after another while requiring the Democrats to get their act together. Under the hapless leadership of Reid and Pelosi, that could be a tall order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.