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Monday, August 29, 2005


So as most of us know, Louisana and Mississipi (M-I-double s-i-double s-i-double p-i) are getting rocked by one of the worst storms to hit the US since Andrew. And as many people have done, I spent last night flipping back and forth between the VMA's and the ever present news coverage of Katrina on The Weather Channel, CNN, and Fox News. If you are only interested in the VMA's, you can get up to date here.

Quickly though, I realized that I was no longer watching coverage of the hurricane, but instead enjoying watching the coverage alone. Of course the The Weather Channel (or TWC, to make typing easier) is the most stoic and scientific of all coverage. It focuses mainly on the storm itself, levee information and all scientific data (pressure ratings and such) realated to forecasting. CNN steps it up a notch with refugee information, possible outcomes, and of course your happy sappy personel interest stories. And then there is Fox News, there mainly to scare the ever living bejesus out of all of us!

It was very interesting flipping back and forth between the three and seeing differences in it all. While TWC is showing a real Meteorologist talking about storm fronts and the like, Fox News is relating to us the "hellish" journey one stoner college student from LSU had to escape the horrible event. Transcript abbreviated as follows:

Newscaster: So tell us your harrowing tale.

Student: So, like we tried to get bus tickets and, like, they were all sold out, and last minute plane tickets were too expensive, so like my roommate called his sister and her and her fiance picked us up and we drove to Houston. There was, like, a little traffic, but it totally wasn't too bad.

Newscaster: Wow, what a story of triumph over adversity!

Student: Yeah, we we're really freaked out but we lit up a joint on the way and we really calmed.....

Newscaster: Oops, looks like the feed was lost. Thanks for telling us the hellish details of your journey!
(ok, so this last part was my own invention but the rest is pretty much verbatim)

As other news coverage on the other channels stayed pretty much the same, Fox News only escalated. They were the first to announce that deaths had occured... 10 pm (PST) before the storm even made landfall. Apparently there was a traffic accident... IN TEXAS! I mean, that's like counting a serviceman who died in a car accident on his way to the base in America as a casulty in Iraq.

And of course Fox News was the first to have "stupid intern with high ambitions to become the next Wolf Blitzer" stuck out in the storm. There he is, standing out in 60-90 mph winds telling us how strong the winds are, as his skin is being blown off his face. I really feel bad for these newscasters, they are just trying to make their way in the industry and they get stuck on storm coverage as on the spot correspondant. Most channels will have a shot at some point of a rain drenched newsman, but this is just being reckless with someone's life. He's standing out in the wind and rain, almost horizontal leaning into the wind (I really thought it was about to pick him up) when a large piece of building lands like 3 feet from him. I was immediately reminded of Day After Tomorrow when the newsman is flattened by a billboard.

Upon waking up this morning I tuned in to the news expecting Fox to have declared that
Namor and his fellow race of underwater dwellers, has not only hit the Big Easy for a wild night of underwater drinking (not too sure on the physics of that) but has also surplanted the US government in the region and are planning on adding New Orleans to their undersea kingdom. (afterall, mermaids are topless ALL the time... atleast my imaginary version of these imaginary creatures are) ***UPDATE*** Fox made the Atlantean connection after all. Click here for more details!

I understand that in this new era of 24 hour news, it is difficult for them to find pertinent information to fill that much time, but I simply don't understand the fearmongering that Fox News insists on using. I understand that Katrina is a big deal, there is going to be a lot of loss of life and property, many people who were barely getting by as it was, now have to deal with losing everything they've ever had. But it seems like Fox is enjoying the sensationalism. Its almost like they are waiting for something to happen so they can make money off of it. Is the current incarnation of the media any better than
war profiteers?

They are using tragedy and loss of life as a springboard to advertising money. Does the fact that they are not creating the tragedy, but merely sensationalizing it make it any better? I feel bad for the people who are stranded in another town looking for information on their homes, towns, and friends and family who are watching Fox News. I'm not saying the news channels should coddle their viewers by showing anything else but the truth, but this habit of blowing things way out of proportion really needs to stop. The media needs to take a step back and look at themselves to see if they are really helping provide free access to information by creating mass hysteria. (on this note, I have updated the link in my previous post to a similar story that doesn't require you to provide personal information to read free news, apologies for the original)

To end on a light note, there is a really amusing article about a small town in Austria located

Definitions to assist you with reading todays post:

Hurricane: A violent storm, characterized by extreme fury and sudden changes of the wind, generally accompanied by rain, thunder, and lightning; -- especially prevalent in the East and West Indies

24-hours News Coverage of Hurricanes: A news broadcast, characterized by extreme sensationalism and sudden changes of mood, generally accompanied by blowhards, frightened interns, and you pissing your pants; -- especially prevalent on Fox and MSNBC

"Welcome to the exciting world of hurricane journalism! While your highly paid colleagues on the anchor desk are broadcasting from the dry safety of a heavily fortified television studio, you and your camera crew will be out in the maw of the storm, risking your lives for no good reason." -
Carl Hiaasen

Posted by timothy :: Direct Link 2 comments

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