Covering Disaster: Lessons from Media Coverage of Katrina and Rita

Overview

In 2005, journalists faced enormous challenges while covering hurricanes Katrina and Rita along America's Gulf Coast. They struggled to find ways to communicate, move from one place to another, and find reputable information. They witnessed complete chaos, observed human suffering, and were outraged with delayed or ineffective rescue mechanisms. Not only did journalists face these normal problems of crises, since many themselves were among the victims, they were forced to do ...

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Overview

In 2005, journalists faced enormous challenges while covering hurricanes Katrina and Rita along America's Gulf Coast. They struggled to find ways to communicate, move from one place to another, and find reputable information. They witnessed complete chaos, observed human suffering, and were outraged with delayed or ineffective rescue mechanisms. Not only did journalists face these normal problems of crises, since many themselves were among the victims, they were forced to do their jobs under circumstances that seemed impossible.

The contributors to Covering Disaster study personal and professional coping mechanisms and lessons that may be learned from media disaster coverage. During Katrina and Rita, journalists responded largely by redefining traditional ideals of fairness, balance, and objectivity and by adopting an emotionally driven and somewhat more subjective reporting style. In this way, they rediscovered and emphasized journalistic purposes and techniques that have long been the hallmarks of greatness. Their work during those months of destruction and pain was applauded by their readers and viewers because it was useful, critical of officials who were not doing their jobs, sought support for those who were suffering, and took a position of public leadership.

Now that the winds have died down, flood waters have receded, and rebuilding has begun, the brand of publicoriented journalism found in the midst of the storms must not be forgotten.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“These nine essays review the coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Rita by local and national newspapers and broadcasters. The topics include, for example, how the news media depicted Katrina’s and Rita’s environmental impacts and the favorable public opinion about the media’s coverage, as reported by pollsters. One particularly interesting chapter looks at how Gulf Coast journalists, who were themselves storm victims, maintained or jettisoned their impartially about the government response to the hurricanes. Recommended.” —R.A. Logan, Choice “We all owe a debt of gratitude to the gifted editors of and contributors to this crisply written, tightly framed and coherently packaged collection of works. This timely volume provides an admirably calibrated mixture of narrative, data, observations, context, conclusions and lessons—from a local and national perspective—of media coverage of horrible devastation. The book is a just-right blend of scholarship and journalism.” —Douglas Anderson, dean, College of Communications, The Pennsylvania State University “The heroes in this useful book are bound by their passion and devotion for getting unvarnished truth to people caught in massive chaos, bungling, and unfathomable suffering. With hindsight, each institution portrayed in Covering Disaster could have performed their duty better, some much better. The ones that did best experienced this extraordinary calamity along side the audiences they served, and in so doing, connected with people in profound and enduring ways. Other lessons presented by the authors—no matter how telling—pale in comparison to the shared ‘we’re all in this together’ reality.” —Robert W. Mong, Jr., editor, The Dallas Morning News “Rarely if ever is there the luxury of stepping back and taking stock of the coverage of the extraordinary events of our time. But the reporting of the twin storms on the Gulf Coast, and the national response to them, broke new journalistic ground, and we’re all fortunate that Izard and Perkins made it their mission to document the good, the bad, the ugly, and the lessons learned in the extraordinary coverage of these disasters. As we’ve just seen in Haiti, there will always be disasters and there will always be journalists telling the world about them. The tools of the trade are changing rapidly, and as Izard and Perkins demonstrate, so are the acceptable boundaries of the journalistic point of view. But the authors also remind us of the importance of eternal verities. Covering Disaster provides all of us with as good a road map as we can ever have for reporting on horrors we can’t imagine until they happen.” —Barbara Raab, senior newswriter, NBC News; adjunct associate professor, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism “Editors Ralph Izard and Jay Perkins did legwork in their own days in media and convey that knowledge, not necessarily in the form of anecdotes, but in covering every pertinent angle in one of the most devastating natural calamities on record: Hurricane Katrina. Izard and Perkins assembled a stable of scholars and veteran writers to document the misery of nature disaster as well as the storytelling, audience, ethical conundrums, mistakes, successes and triumph . . . Izard’s and Perkins’ book will change how we view, analyze and cover future events as well as put past ones into crisp perspective.” —Michael Bugeja, author, Living Ethics Across Media Platforms and Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412813334
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Pages: 134
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jay Perkins is associate professor of communication at the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University. He served as a reporter, editor, and political analyst for the Associated Press. He specializes in investigative reporting, computer-assisted reporting, and political consulting techniques.

Ralph Izard is professor of communication at the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University and professor emeritus at the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has been editor of Newspaper Research Journal and is the author of numerous professional articles in ethics, the First Amendment, and journalistic writing.

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Table of Contents

Preface

1 In the Wake of Disaster: Lessons Learned Ralph Izard Izard, Ralph 1

2 Hurricane Katrina: Flooding, Muck, and Human Misery Guido H. Stempel III Stempel, Guido H., III 19

3 NBC News: Covering a Tale of Human Suffering Ralph Izard Izard, Ralph 31

4 Local Coverage: Anticipating the Needs of Readers Roxanne K. Dill Dill, Roxanne K. 39

5 Split Personalities: Journalists as Victims Shearon Roberts Roberts, Shearon 55

6 Government and Journalism in Crisis: Blame to Share Robert Mann Mann, Robert 71

7 Journalism Defines the Issue: Coastal Erosion Lisa K. Lundy Lundy, Lisa K. 85

8 Public Relations: In the Eye of the Storm Jinx C. Broussard Broussard, Jinx C. 93

9 Public Polls: Journalists Get Good Marks Ralph Izard Izard, Ralph 103

References 111

List of Contributors 117

List of Interviews 119

Index 123

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