Following Katrina, the consensus was that the media had gotten its groove back by providing comprehensive and aggressive coverage. In a sense, the media became their own media darlings.
But, to quote Grand Funk Railroad in the song Destitute and Loosin, “Nothing good lasts forever.” A number of stories have looked back on their Katrina coverage with considerable scrutiny, namely by wondering why the media bought many of the horror stories that emerged out of Katrina and that turned out to be false.
Powerline raises a number of questions worth considering:
* How did so many false rumors come to be reported as fact?
* Do news outlets have any procedures in place to avoid this kind of mis-reporting? If so, why did their procedures fail so miserably?
* To what extent were the false rumors honest mistakes, and to what extent were they deliberate fabrications?
* To the extent that the false reports were deliberate, did the press pass them on through sheer negligence, or did some reporters participate in deliberate fabrication?
* Did the widespread breakdown in accurate reporting stem only from a failure to follow proper journalistic standards, or did it also reflect a deliberate effort to damage the Bush administration by passing on unconfirmed rumors as fact?
* In deciding what stories to report, did the news media consider the likelihood that passing on false rumors would damage the rescue effort?
It is vitally important to get to the bottom of these questions, so that future natural disasters are not similarly mis-reported.
Best of the Web’s James Taranto says: “Let’s not beat up too much on our colleagues in the news business. It would be unfair to expect perfection from them in dealing with an unprecedented natural catastrophe, just as it was unfair to expect perfection from the federal government.”