There certainly hasn’t been a lack of analysis (and analysis of the analysis soon to come, for sure) on the media’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Still, no verdict can be rendered final until the Godfather–the Post’s Howie Kurtz–has had his say. Fresh off a month’s vacation, he chimed in yesterday with an excellent and insightful Media Notes column.
Kurtz gives mostly high marks to the media for its coverage, beginning his column by noting “Journalism seems to have recovered its reason for being”–a very un-Kurtzian opener indeed, perhaps because we’re more accustomed to reading Kurtz explain media’s apparent unraveling in recent years and months. This seemed so, well, uplifting.
He goes on to praise the approach taken by many journalists during their coverage, saying that their decision to express outrage and act more like “concerned citizens” than simply reporters “seemed utterly appropriate.”
His column caused two question marks to appear over the Fishbowl’s head (er, bowl).
1.) Kurtz echoes what most have declared: that it took a while for the media to find its bearings in its coverage (“they seemed more intent on hopscotching from disaster scenes to news conferences than in challenging the tragically slow government response”). Hmm… having a rough time getting started…. sounds an awful lot like… FEMA? Obviously, there are more dire consequences to a slow FEMA than there are to a slow media, but it does make the media’s outrage towards government all the more surprising, since they could probably relate to the initial frustrations.
2.) What are the particular elements of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath that make it acceptable–even encouraged–for reporters to interrogate leaders, while such an approach towards the war in Iraq is derided by many? Disasters on our shores = patriotic to question authority? Disasters on other shores = unpatriotic to question authority?