Monday, September 12, 2005

Plight of New Orleans.

We now know that most of the post-Katrina deaths and problems in New Orleans occured as a result of poverty being so pervasise that evacuation attempts failed and also due to the levees failing at the critical juncture.

The New York Times public editor takes an in-depth look at the media's (particularly NY Times) responsibility in these matters. According to Byron Calame, the NYT public editor, any media organisation and NY times in particular with its vast resources and reach had the responsilibity for keeping the public informed of such problems and the devastation it could lead to...he comes up with articles and reports that indicate that the NYT has borne that responsibility partially, and has constantly pointed out these possible problems. The problem of course, is twofold
  • The facts and conclusions that point towards these potential problems were hidden away within large, verbose articles and would catch only the discerning reader's eye.
  • Apathy on the part of the readers/establishment to such facts.
The NY Times is partially to blame, because they should have given more prominence to the problems and not, as illustrated in the article, the following...
  • What readers would have been more likely to find in The Times's past decade of news coverage of New Orleans were stylishly written articles about the city's charm, cuisine and colorful characters
Surely reports in the NY Times on such critical matters are not ignored by the establishment ? Or have we gotten used to being plastered about various problems by the media, that no one bothers to respond, unless catastrophe strikes, or the reports personally attack a particular official or a department ? Do reports such as the ones pointed to by the above journalist go unread ? Do they absolutely fail to evoke enough interest or alarm at any level ? At least they must start a lively discussion on the matters pointed to if not to actually solve the problems ?

Now the question is : who is to blame for everything that happened in New Orleans ? The government officials seem like the immediate culprits...but which government : The Federal government that didn't make this a priority and entrust FEMA to take preventive steps to handle any future problems ? The state, and city establishements that are closer to the particular problem and should have allocated resources in their budgets for this issue ? The citizens of the state, that had to make the devilish choice between strengthening the levees or spending that money on developing the state's education and healthcare systems ? Or the rest of us "well-informed" readers of NYT, who should have noticed a pattern and then alerted any of the above agencies or citizens of that state ? Or is it the fault of the media, NYT included, who should have stated these facts in screaming orange headlines, each time they found a new fact about the sad realities of New Orleans ?

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