JRN425: Journalism & Politics
Instructor: Teresa Taylor-Moore
March 25, 2015
As far back as 1922, the agenda setting theory has been a powerful influence in the media. Due to agenda setting, the media determines the most important issues in our society and with new age technology, social media and 24-hour news stations; the media has numerous outlets of influencing the public’s opinion. One of the most important ways to get news out to the public is news making and there have been examples of how agenda setting can influence our opinion and how we determine what newsworthy story is important or not. Hurricane Katrina is an example of how agenda setting can influence the public’s opinion. Hurricane Katrina stirred up controversy with its reporting on the evacuation, the government’s response, who’s to blame and the aftermath. In this paper, we will explore the political agenda setting of this devastation.
On August 29, 2005, one of the worst storms in history made landfall in the United States. Hurricane Katrina destroyed southern states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Katrina’s storm affected the lives of people all over the United States. As Katrina hit the Gulf Cost, it destroyed homes, businesses and schools flooding the cities like New Orleans and leaving several civilians and families without food, shelter or clothing. Millions of people became displaced because of the severity of this storm. Several deaths, and an astronomical amount of property damage occurred. The city of New Orleans was one of the cities that was damaged the most by Hurricane Katrina. “Eighty percent of the city flooded due to breaches of the levee system; because of the tragedies of this storm, America became a new America” (Raven, Berg, & Hassenzahl, 2010).
According to Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath by Kim Zimmerman, “An estimated 1, 836 people died during the hurricane and the flooding afterwards that left people homeless along the Gulf Coast and New Orleans” (Zimmermann, 2012). Mayor Ray Nagin was in office at the time during the disaster and was under a lot of scrutiny for lack of communication in evacuating the people in the city. The government’s response on helping victims during Hurricane Katrina was emphasized more on in the media as less often addressing individuals’ and communities’ level of preparedness or responsibility. The images in the media showed the people of New Orleans as they were stranded on rooftops and along the flooded streets were people who did not survive the devastating storm as dead bodies laid there for days.
“Thousands took shelter in and around the city’s convention center and sports stadium, where conditions rapidly deteriorated. Many waited for [several days] for buses to transport them to shelters in other cities. The sick and elderly in a number of hospitals and nursing homes were left without water, electric power, and ventilation, and many died. Rescue teams worked day and night throughout the city but lacked the resources to deal effectively with the large number of people in need of help” (Funk & Wagnalls, 2014). As viewers watched the devastation of the storm, one cannot help but feel some sense of sympathy for those who were affected and have an opinion of what is taking so long for people to receive help?
As the devastation of Hurricane Katrina continues, the media continues to make President Bush a focal point on much of the coverage. According to Pew research, “over the past six days, there has been a 34% increase in stories that mention the hurricane and President Bush. The past six days have also seen a substantial increase in the number of stories that mention the Red Cross up 88% and FEMA up 131%” (Pew Research Center, 2005). Many stories that mention FEMA have included specific discussions about FEMA’s director, Mike Brown, and how the agency handled the first few days after the storm.
During a television interview