Will the Press Recede Along With the Water?

Going into next week, there are two important questions about media’s coverage:

How long will they stick with the story? And how long will Americans watch? (More than likely the answers are obvious: They’ll stick with the story as long as Americans are watching.)

But with FEMA, et al. apparently beginning to get their act together and with evacuees being tended to relatively well (or at least much better), networks may have less material to fill the “if it bleeds, it leads” mantra.

Many are already worrying about media pulling out of the story too soon. Sen. Clinton has begged the media not to give in to ‘disaster fatigue.’ Poynter’s Kelly McBride says that “Ultimately, telling this story will require courage. Courage to be among the desperate. Courage to spend the money and time. Courage to challenge the powerful. Courage to stay with the story when the immediate crisis is past. Courage to look at our leaders and, ultimately, ourselves, and ask: How did we let this get so bad?”

But next week, when the waters recede and reveal what lies underneath, the story could regain momentum. Next week’s story, then, may concern the battle between the press’ desire to expose Katrina’s underwater carnage and FEMA’s desire to prevent pictures of the devastation.

Keep your eyes peeled here next week to see which paper leaves the plantation first (‘Brownie’ points to the reader who spots it — pun intended.).