Katrina in the Media Essay example

Submitted By gregjmonahan
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Pages: 5

Katrina In the Media According to National Geographic’s timeline (Drye 2005), at 9:30 a.m. on August 28th of 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin issues the order for a mandatory evacuation of the city. Less than 24 hours later, Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans with winds up to 145 miles an hour: a Category 4 storm. At 8 a.m. on August 29th the first reports of water topping levees are issued. By 11 a.m. the first major levee breaks and water pours into the city. Because of the design of the city’s elaborate 350 miles of levees and canals, once the system fails there is nowhere for the floodwater to go but deeper into the city. Thousands of residents, unable or unwilling to evacuate, spend 4 hellish days with little food or drinkable water, before the U.S. National Guard and relief agencies arrive. Most have taken refuge in the Superdome and Convention Center, but many are scattered throughout the city either clustered in small groups in safe havens or forced to fend for themselves on rooftops, in attics, on makeshift rafts. The water that has filled their city teems with sewage and invisible, deadly bacteria.
These are the indisputable facts of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst disasters to befall an American city. The storm raged, the waters rose, and the levees broke. It has been called a natural disaster, a man-made disaster, the wrath of a vengeful god on a sinful city. At every turn, the organizations Americans turn to in times of emergency failed the citizens of New Orleans. The Army Corps of Engineers was aware that the levees would only withstand a Category 3 hurricane, but due to budgetary difficulties and priorities were unable to make the necessary improvements. An underfunded and understaffed FEMA was incapable of providing the appropriate relief in a timely manner. In the middle of the disaster the city changed the police’s orders from relief and rescue to containment and property protection, seeing its citizens not as victims, but potential criminals. Beyond illustrating the federal government’s lack of preparedness for dealing with a disaster of this magnitude and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ failure to adequately protect the city from a storm of this size, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina also exposed a racial bias in the media’s coverage. One of the more glaring examples of this was illustrated in Boing Boing (Jardin 2005) with two similar photos of New Orleans residents wading through water dragging floating bags of supplies. The picture from the AP shows a black man and the caption reads, “A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store…” The AFP photo beneath it of a white couple bears the caption, “Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store…” In the chaos and anarchy of the days after Katrina, journalists made gross exaggerations and outright lies. Reports of rape and murder at the Superdome were later retracted. A frustrated Randall Robinson reported in the Huffington Post (Robinson 2005) that “victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive.” Days later he amended his statement, saying these claims were “unsubstantiated”.
The journalists on the ground in the disaster told a different story as they realized this wasn’t an average hurricane story where a reporter stands on a beach in heavy winds and describes damages. Normally detached and stoic veteran reporters became emotional on televised broadcasts. On Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith gave frustrated, impassioned pleas for the victims of the storm as they surveyed the helpless victims trapped without the most basic comforts. On CNN, a visibly angered Anderson Cooper lashed out at Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu about politicians patting each other’s backs while people are suffering.
International coverage of the event varied from nation to nation. In his poignant article