May 23, 2006
LOU DOLINAR HAS BEEN LOOKING INTO THE MEDIA FAILURES DURING KATRINA:
Remember the dozens, maybe hundreds, of rapes, murders, stabbings and deaths resulting from official neglect at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina? The ones that never happened, as even the national media later admitted?
Sure, we all remember the original reporting, if not the back-pedaling.
Here's another one: Do you remember the dramatic TV footage of National Guard helicopters landing at the Superdome as soon as Katrina passed, dropping off tens of thousands saved from certain death? The corpsmen running with stretchers, in an echo of M*A*S*H, carrying the survivors to ambulances and the medical center? About how the operation, which also included the Coast Guard, regular military units, and local first responders, continued for more than a week?
Me neither. Except that it did happen, and got at best an occasional, parenthetical mention in the national media. The National Guard had its headquarters for Katrina, not just a few peacekeeping troops, in what the media portrayed as the pit of Hell. Hell was one of the safest places to be in New Orleans, smelly as it was. The situation was always under control, not surprisingly because the people in control were always there. . . .
I initially heard about the Dome headquarters from Maj. John T. Dressler, who serves with the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C, an organization that coordinates efforts of State Guard units which serve under their respective governors. Dressler was present in the command tent there and pulled together after-action reports for the Guard as a whole from its fifty-plus individual state commands. His account was so far at variance with the picture the media portrayed that I suspected a hoax, as did my RCP editor. As it turns out, various Guard documents, personal memories, and sworn testimony support his story, which in Louisiana is no great secret. It's just the rest of the country that's been kept in the dark.
Read the whole thing. The Katrina reporting represented a massive media failure, one that they've never really admitted.
UPDATE: Reader Michael Parker emails:
It's only a failure if their goal was to report the news.
It was a raging success if you believe their goal was to diminish Bush.
Given how proud of their Katrina coverage the press remains to this day, it seems like the latter is the most likely.
It's certainly true that they have nothing to be proud of. Indeed, their mis-reporting hampered rescue efforts and may well have cost lives.