Hurricanes, Then and Now

Anyone who lived through the hysteria that surrounded Hurricane Katrina in 2005 can only regard with amazement the Associated Press’s take on Hurricane Sandy: “Sandy a super test for Bloomberg, Christie, Cuomo.” Various distinctions can be drawn between Katrina and Sandy, but one thing they had in common, along with other natural disasters, is that local authorities have primary responsibility for response. Yet who, in the press coverage of 2005, described Katrina as a “super test” for Governors Kathleen Blanco and Haley Barbour, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin?

Actually, reporters should have talked about Katrina that way. If they had, they might have been able to explain why Barbour’s Mississippi fared well, while Louisiana was a disaster, due in large part to the gross incompetence of Nagin and Blanco. But that, of course, was not their agenda. Now the shoe is on the other foot, in that we have a Democratic president, so the Associated Press is free to focus attention where it belongs, on the local authorities.

Still, you might think the cognitive dissonance would be overwhelming for reporters more than 20 years old, who presumably remember how the press covered Katrina. In today’s AP story on Christie, Cuomo and Bloomberg there is not a single reference to FEMA. And Barack Obama, for whom the hurricane existed only as an excuse to don a bomber jacket, is mentioned only to note Chris Christie’s praise for him. About the federal response to Hurricane Sandy, whatever it may have been, not a word.

That’s how it goes in the world of media: if it weren’t for agenda journalism, we wouldn’t have any journalism at all.

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