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Why No One Takes Salon Seriously

Leaving aside the fact that Salon doesn't even attempt to hide their decidedly liberal viewpoints, what passes as reporting is at times positively juvenile in it's ineptitude. Case in point, this story on Katerina spin. Here's how it starts out...

It's quickly becoming conventional wisdom: The media reporting from Hurricane Katrina was largely false, and conditions in New Orleans weren't nearly as bad as the press made them out to be. The right is gloating about another Rather-gate triumph over the liberal media and saying that it's the press, not the federal government, that ought to be investigated.
Author Tim Grieve points to my Rewriting History - Katrina Media Myths Exposed with that link.

First he claims I (or the unnamed "right") am gloating about a Rather-gate triumph over the liberal media. The major factual error in that interpretation is that, to the best of my knowledge, no one is making those comparisons - save for Grieve. Having discussed this at length with a USAToday reporter this afternoon (for an upcoming article on Katrina coverage), I made the point that as near as I could tell there was no ideological bent to reporting rumor as fact - for example is seemed to be done as often by Fox as is was by CNN. What we were witness to was cable and network news divisions attempting to tell the story of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (an area equivalent in size to Great Britain) from a tripod in the French Quarter. It was a 24/7 keyhole view into the disaster.

Second, and again to my knowledge, no one is saying "conditions in New Orleans weren't nearly as bad as the press made them out to be," they're basically saying that the conditions in New Orleans (and elsewhere) didn't match the the descriptions given by the media. You can check our archives under Hurricane Katrina, we (mostly Paul) were saying it was much worse than anyone actually knew. The problem is that some of the myths of the Superdome and Convention Center overshadowed other stories of pain, suffering, grief, destruction, etc...

Finally, Grieve in his link implies that I have somehow called for the press to be investigated, rather than the government. I've re-read my piece several times and frankly his claim is just bizarre. It must have escaped Grieve that the major source of material for the piece is a from a mainstream media site, one which itself was guilty of misreporting. The Times-Picayune at least deserves credit for taking another look at the situation. It may be impossible to unring the bell in regards to the post flooding reporting, but that doesn't mean that correcting the record isn't a worthwhile endeavor.

A while back a commenter said something to the effect of, "but what about everything you saw?" The question now is, "what exactly did we see?" Did anyone see those often reported piles of bodies? Most people believe they did, but considering that officials say there were 10 deaths (total) between the two sites, only 4 of which were murders, it's doubtful that anyone did. We saw chaos, lawlessness, and looting - but the anarchy was mostly just implied. Does that mean it didn't occur? No, but it should cause thoughtful people to re-investigate what they think they know about what happened. That would appear to exclude Grieve...

Update: Tim Grieve writes that the call for investigation was in the comment section. In responded that there's a difference between the published work at Wizbang and the contents of the comment section. Both are valuable, and since all comments are directly linkable anyone who wants to quote and link comments can do so. As with any high traffic site that allows comments - LGF, Daily Kos, Atrios, etc.- comments at Wizbang are the viewpoints of their respective authors.

Comments (13)

I agree. I don't think it w... (Below threshold)

I agree. I don't think it was bias, I think it was competition to find the BIG story. Randall Robinson set it off with his cannibalism rant and since nobody could top it they decided they would do the best they could with what they had. I rode out Gilbert on Cozumel in 1997 and within 3 hours of the storm passing CBS News landed a helicopter at the airport. They asked me if it was true that there were thousands of dead in town. When I told them no they took off headed east looking for the story. It's always been a case of it it bleeds it leads but now if it doesn't bleed they seem to want to make it.

And I saw the dead bodies o... (Below threshold)

And I saw the dead bodies on Monday.
And I saw the dead bodies on Tuesday.
And I saw the dead bodies on Wednesday.
And I saw the dead bodies on Thursday.
And I saw the dead bodies on Friday.
And I saw the dead bodies on Saturday.

//End Broussard

The news networks were forc... (Below threshold)
Steve L.:

The news networks were forced to fill 24 hours a day with something. Since Katrina and NO was a large chunk of the story, that's where they focused. Unfortunately in the chaos, they did not have the ability to check facts easily. There was a "rush-to-air" in an effort to fll the voids in their coverage, and the truth was a casualty.

A second factor was the desire to cover the human side of the story of which TV normally does a good job. They did this by interviewing people, of course. Unfortunately, the people they interviewed passed on rumors that they had heard. When a newsman heard the same rumor from multiple people, he started to believe it true. With no way to corroborate the story, it ran as is to fill the time.

An example of this was the famous story of a National Guard unit finding 30+ bodies in a freezer. The unit involved was an Arkansas Guard unit. The local TV stations here in Arkansas ran the story. However, they didn't bother to contact Arkansas Guard headquarters and verify the story. Had they done so, they would have discovered that there was no one who could verify the story because it hadn't happened. Instead, they ran the story because they thought there was local interest.

I have to agree with Kevin that this is not necessarily bias showing. It is just bad journalism.

YOU FASCISTS ARE BEING EXPO... (Below threshold)


I tend to think of this as ... (Below threshold)

I tend to think of this as some sort of media pissing contest. All the news agencies were struggling to break the "biggest story" out of Katrina, and in their definition of the term, that necessitated more death, destruction, and violence. Meanwhile, the people who weren't in New Orleans were watching the coverage, formulating their opinions of what was happening and who, if anyone, was to blame, based upon those reported-as-fact rumors.

Did "partisan bias" play a role in their reporting? Not per se, but the decidedly left-oriented penchant for over-emotionalizing every situation certainly influenced their efforts. They could have done as news crews have in the past, utilizing any means at their disposal to get newsreel footage of the destruction, and reporting what they were hearing with a significant disclaimer that none of these rumors had been substantiated. Instead, we saw them on the verge of squawling, relating stories to which they had no true emotional ties, even if they had been true.

That's not journalism.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi coast (and much of the state inland) was totally devestated, with hundreds dead and/or missing. Entire towns, some historical in nature, were leveled to the point that they will by necessity, not rebuild as their own city, but rather will be incorporated into cities that survived in an effort to pool resources and re-establish civilization in that area.

It was hard enough to know that Katrina's effects on Mississippi were going largely ignored, but to be learning now that the story here was bypassed not because of a greater tragedy to our west, but rather because of jucier rumors over there is doubly maddening. I suppose by now we should be accustomed to being treated like the red headed stepchild of the United States down here, but this put things in an undeniable perspective. Now, while billions of dollars in federal and private aid pours into New Orleans, we'll be struggling to pull ourselves along, and somehow re-balance a budget that has suffered about a 30% hit.

In a way it's ironic. New Orleans was a disaster of management, so they get to reap huge rewards for their incompetence, while we are left to our own devices. Somehow, it seems we're being punished for having competent officials and leaders spearheading the emergency response here, rather than depending upon a handful of bumbling morons who couldn't evacuate their bowels without first commissioning a panel to review the procedure.

The news media tend to make... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

The news media tend to make a mountian out of a molehill they blow things way out of preportions and they take the number of sheehans peace-niks and jack up the numbers i tell you the news media cant be trusted ever

IF I TYPE IN ALL CAPS, IT M... (Below threshold)


Nobody reasonable takes Sal... (Below threshold)

Nobody reasonable takes Salon seriously because insane people (I'm using the term loosely, please bear with me) like SALON TRUTH NOT RIGHTWING HATE take Salon seriously.

Kevin,Where are yo... (Below threshold)


Where are you seeing that four of the ten dead were homicides?

Five of the six deaths at the Superdome were of a "non-cidal" nature, and the sixth was a suicide.

There was one homicide at the convention center (Note not known if a legal or illegal homicide, BTW), the other three deaths, I think, were from natural causes.

I disagree that bias was no... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

I disagree that bias was not a factor in the New Orleans reporting. I think there was substantial bias; however, maybe not the kind of bias that we usually think of in the current context. The thing to keep in mind here is that the MSM today is, in and of itself, an political party. As a party, it represents a very small portion of the population, but that doesn't matter because of of the MSM party's fundemental principles is that majority rule is an intolerable danger that must be eliminated in order to have a stable society.

Why has there been a virtual blackout on news from Slidell, Biloxi, Gulfport, and Dauphin Island -- all areas that suffered far more storm damage than New Orleans did? Because a fundemental belief -- maybe the defining belief of the MSM Party -- is that ordinary Americans are primitive, savage, unstable low-intelligence brutes, perpetually just one little nudge away from riot and anarchy. In the MSM Party's view, an authoritarian government with unlimited powers is absolutely necessary to keeping the American population in check, and the MSM sees itself as a branch of (in fact having a leadership role in) that government. New Orleans was essential toward proving that thesis; thus, the MSM's total willingness to report the Superdome rumors as fact. It wasn't just sloppy reporting. The reporters chose not to fact-check, because they couldn't run the risk that it might not be true. It had to be true, in order to conform to the world-view that they set out to present.

In Mississippi and Alabama, they saw competent people working to recover from a far greater disaster. They saw ordinary citizens fending for themselves with grace and helping their neighbors with compassion. They saw leaders organizing and organizations making good things happen, all without a strong central authority dictating every move. This totally blows the MSM thesis. Therefore, an unspoken ban on coverage of these areas was instituted. It wasn't a conspiracy; it was something worse than that -- a collective action taken without discussion, because to even mention, to point out its existence, would constitute an unforgivable blasphemy. Like the German citizens who watched the brown shirts haul the Jews away, the existence of the blackout is not to be even mentioned, because to mention it would be to force those involved to confront the fact that everything they believe about the universe and human nature is false.

Just remember all libs suck... (Below threshold)

Just remember all libs suck and they suck good

Kevin you said “Does... (Below threshold)

Kevin you said “Does that mean it didn't occur?” Inferring that just because the media reports couldn’t be confirmed doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. This could be applied to any wild theory. I thought the press is suppose to report facts not report on wild speculations as if they are fact. Maybe they are taking their lead from the Democrats who stated, “it doesn’t matter if the accusations are true. Only the seriousness of the accusations is what important.” The MSM has turn into a rumor mill with little concern for the truth and researching the facts of a story.

I think this round of "we g... (Below threshold)

I think this round of "we got it wrong" is going to be followed by a few "but, this was right" stories. I'm not entirely buying that all those anecdotal reports were just urban legends.

I don't get cable, but I saw one MSM TV report showing "neighbors cooperating in MS". Those kinds of reports didn't seem to be too much favored. Perhaps Huell Howser should have gone there.






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