September 01, 2005

Prescient Reporting

The big journalism picture easily gets lost in the day-to-day minute-to-minute reporting of a disaster the size of Hurricane Katrina.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, forced to be a web-only "paper" by the flooding (and thereby displaying the power of the web to connect communities when print fails) foretold of the destruction in its 2002 series, Washing Away, which forecast:

"It's only a matter of time before South Louisiana takes a direct hit from a major hurricane. Billions have been spent to protect us, but we grow more vulnerable every day."

... and warned of the perils of an evacuation dependent on private transportation:

"... evacuation offers the best chance for survival. But for those who wait, getting out will become nearly impossible as the few routes out of town grow hopelessly clogged. And 100,000 people without transportation will be especially threatened."

It is that 100,000, mostly poor, mostly African American people who are now stranded in the submerged city.

Read the whole thing. How prepared is your community? What segments would be left behind in a natural disaster? What type of journalism can you do to prevent that from happening?

UPDATE, 9/2: Tim Rutten of the L.A. Times adds the New York Times and NPR news organizations that forecast the disaster in New Orleans. He writes (my emphasis):

These days, media criticism has become a kind of blood sport. One of its practitioners' most frequently repeated complaints is that mainstream news organizations have become increasingly if not solely reactive, retailing the sensation of the moment to an audience hooked on titillating irrelevancies.

Well, that didn't happen here.

Three years ago, New Orleans' leading local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, National Public Radio's signature nightly news program, "All Things Considered," and the New York Times each methodically and compellingly reported that the very existence of south Louisiana's leading city was at risk and hundreds of thousands of lives imperiled by exactly the sequence of events that occurred this week. All three news organizations also made clear that the danger was growing because of a series of public policy decisions and failure to allocate government funds to alleviate the danger.

Posted by Tim Porter at September 1, 2005 03:52 PM
Comments

Here's some info about Mark Schleifstein, the mensch who authored "Washing Away" (the expose warning about hurricanes) for the New Orleans paper. It also describes a bit about how he got thru the ordeal.

Jewish environmental journalist as Jonah: Mark Schleifstein on catastrophic hurricane risk

http://kaspit.typepad.com/weblog/2005/09/new_orleans_and.html

thanks,

Kaspit

Posted by: kaspit on September 2, 2005 11:36 AM
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