Friday, September 30, 2005

Hysteria Driven Media, Lies, and Videotape = More Lies and Hysteria

Online NewsHour: Looking at Media Coverage of Hurricane Katrina -- September 29, 2005: "JEFFREY BROWN: And, Mr. Hewitt, same question, what did you like and what did you dislike?

HUGH HEWITT: Well, Keith just said they did not report an ordinary story; in fact they were reporting lies. The central part of this story, what went on at the convention center and the Superdome was wrong. American media threw everything they had at this story, all the bureaus, all the networks, all the newspapers, everything went to New Orleans, and yet they could not get inside the convention center, they could not get inside the Superdome to dispel the lurid, the hysterical, the salaciousness of the reporting.

Hugh Hewitt: I have in mind especially the throat-slashed seven-year-old girl who had been gang-raped at the convention center -- didn't happen. In fact, there were no rapes at the convention center or the Superdome that have yet been corroborated in any way.

There weren't stacks of bodies in the freezer. But America was riveted by this reporting, wholesale collapse of the media's own levees they let in all the rumors, and all the innuendo, all the first-person story because they were caught up in this own emotionalism. Exactly what Keith was praising I think led to one of the worst weeks of reporting in the history of American media, and it raises this question: If all of that amount of resources was given over to this story and they got it wrong, how can we trust American media in a place far away like Iraq where they don't speak the language, where there is an insurgency, and I think the question comes back we really can't."

This is why I don't watch television news. It takes weeks to read and listen to diverse accounts and sort through the lies to figure out what really happened. Usually if it's reported in the LA Times or the NY Times you have to use the same caution.


Andy said...

Hey Ryan

I saw this segment, and thought of you. (Beth hates it when I watch this show--because it is "the most boring news show ever")

I'm not sure if you saw the segment, or just read the transcript, but I'm interested in your thoughts on two things:

1) Another guest on the same panel, David Cunningham (?) a correspondent from NBC, said that one of the problems with the reporting was that information sources that reporters usually rely on--mayors, police chiefs, etc--were relaying and confirming some of the same salacious reports which turned out to be rumors. What do you think of this consideration?

2) I think this is related to Iraq, but perhaps in a different way that Hewitt suggested. It illuminates the problem of a media that is dependent upon people in power who have a vested interest in a particular story getting out there. So, just as the media (arguably) should have been more suspicious of govt reports of the Katrina situation, so it should be suspicious of the same in Iraq. In other words, Hewitt says that this shows that it would be better not to trust the media re: Iraq. Why shouldn't the Katrina situation make us glad that the media is not accepting uncritically the government's "story" (for lack of a better term) in Iraq?

By the way, I like your point about the problem of immediacy in television news and its lack of analysis as a consequence. I guess that's why I prefer the most "boring" news broadcasts.


McRyanMac said...

The issue is ideology. The MSM share an ideology that makes them blind to facts that don't square with their ideology.

Why was coverage of Katrina focused on the Bush Administration's supposed failures? Ideology. Why is coverage of Iraq so uniformly negative? Ideology.

What ever makes Bush look bad is news. That's why you don't hear much about the strength of the economy, the relative success of Katrina relief and the historic successes and progress in Iraq.

At least you assume ideology when you hear administration officials talking. You should assume the same when you hear a reporter talking; he/she is just as motivated by political considerations.

The fact that state and local government officials were the source of the false Katrina stories is a poor excuse. If state and local officials were telling stories of the competent and swift reaction of Bush administration officials, I doubt they would have taken them at face value.

But if it's sensational, and perhaps more importantly, if it makes Bush look bad, then it makes the lead story, it makes the front page.

McRyanMac said...

For an example, compare the corruption stories of Tom Delay to those of the UN.

You're going to hear a lot about one and almost nothing about the other.

See if you can guess which is which.


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