With another hurricane season approaching, Lou Dolinar’s analysis of the medial meltdown over Katrina in Real Clear Politics couldn’t be more timely. Dolinar shows that the media almost completely ignored an extraordinarily successful rescue effort, by the National Guard and others, that saved tens of thousands of lives in New Orleans. In their haste to broadcast lurid (albeit false) stories of chaos and mayhem, the press missed the real story:
The success of the makeshift medical center was such that there were just six deaths at the entire Superdome complex: four of natural causes, one drug overdose, and one suicide during the week of supposedly rampant anarchy and death.***Overall, the false claims of up to 200 dead at the Dome, including murder victims, had clueless FEMA officials showing up at the end of the week with a refrigerated 18-wheeler to claim the stacks of bodies.
In all this time, Dressler said, “We didn’t see a single camera crew or reporter on the scene. Maybe someone was there with a cell phone or a digital camera but I didn’t see anyone.” This was in the headquarters area. Maj. Ed Bush, meanwhile, did start seeing reporters on Tuesday and Wednesday, but inside the Dome, most were interested in confirming the stacks of bodies in the freezers, interviews with rape victims, he said, and other mayhem that never happened. He pitched the rescue angle and no one was interested.
In the end, the media timeline was exactly backwards. The bulk of all rescues took place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and began tapering off on Thursday, officials say. Their account is buttressed by a Washington Post poll of survivors, which indicates that 75 percent of the survivors who had been trapped and rescued were picked by Thursday, and virtually all were picked up by the end of the week.
Dolinar’s analysis is lengthy and detailed. Please do read it all. The bottom line is that the mass media blew their coverage of Hurricane Katrina badly. Has anyone paid a price for that malpractice? Not that I know of. Last I saw, media figures were awarding one another prizes for their Katrina coverage.