As President Bush scurries back to the Gulf Coast, it is clear that this is the greatest challenge to politics-as-usual in America since the fall of Richard Nixon in the 1970s. Then as now, good reporting lies at the heart of what is changing. But unlike Watergate, "Katrinagate" was public service journalism ruthlessly exposing the truth on a live and continuous basis. Instead of secretive "Deep Throat" meetings in car-parks, cameras captured the immediate reality of what was happening at the New Orleans Convention Center, making a mockery of the stalling and excuses being put forward by those in power. Amidst the horror, American broadcast journalism just might have grown its spine back, thanks to Katrina. [...] But last week the complacency stopped, and the moral indignation against inadequate government began to flow, from slick anchors who spend most of their time glued to desks in New York and Washington. The most spectacular example came last Friday night on Fox News, the cable network that has become the darling of the Republican heartland. This highly successful Murdoch-owned station sets itself up in opposition to the "mainstream liberal media elite". But with the sick and the dying forced to sit in their own excrement behind him in New Orleans, its early-evening anchor Shepard Smith declared civil war against the studio-driven notion that the biggest problem was still stopping the looters. On other networks like NBC, CNN and ABC it was the authority figures, who are so used to an easy ride at press conferences, that felt the full force of reporters finally determined to ditch the deference. As the heads of the Homeland Security department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) appeared for network interviews, their defensive remarks about where aid was arriving to, and when, were exposed immediately as either downright lies or breath-taking ignorance. And you did not need a degree in journalism to know it either. Just watching TV for the previous few hours would have sufficed. [..] And it is not only on TV and radio where the gloves have come off. The most artful supporter of the administration on the staff of the New York Times, columnist David Brooks, has also had enough. He and others are calling the debacle the "anti 9-11": "The first rule of the social fabric - that in times of crisis you protect the vulnerable - was trampled," he wrote on Sunday. "Leaving the poor in New Orleans was the moral equivalent of leaving the injured on the battlefield." [...] [...] The final word belongs to the historic newspaper at the centre of the hurricane - The New Orleans Times-Picayune. At the weekend, this now-homeless institution published an open letter: "We're angry, Mr President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been, were not. That's to the government's shame."[Via Dan Gillmor] The only thing missing from Wells' story is the importance and impact of participatory journalists during the Katrina aftermath. On that note, the Hypergene Mediablog has an interview with Jonathan Mendez who co-created Scipionus.com, the Katrina Information Map:
The response has been tremendous, far more than I originally expected. I posted the link on the few forums that I knew of, and saw the initial map start to slowly gather a few sparse entries, and thought maybe people didn't have time to go to the map to add information. Within a few hours, though, it really picked up and I saw probably close to a hundred markers already. Checking the access logs for the web site, I saw more and more sites linking to the page, and by now the map has 1,136 entries, with more being added all the time. I've also gotten a lot of feedback praising the site and in many cases thanking me for creating a site that allowed them to find out information about their neighborhood or their families and friends. It always brings a smile to my face when I get an e-mail in which someone describes finding out good news about their loved ones.[Via Smartmobs] And, finally, illustrating that Riched-Up Clan Bush has no idea how the world actually works, here's Barbara Bush "sympathising":
"Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston," Barbara Bush told NPR. "What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this --this is working very well for them."[Mp3] As Andrew Sullivan rightly notes, it's her very own Marie Antoinette moment!
[Tags: barbarabush | bush | katrina | aftermath | politics | power | media | citizenjournalism | citizenmedia]