Along the Tracks

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
 

20 Questions the Media Refuses to Ask Concerning Katrina


The disastrous emergency response to Katrina in New Orleans demands some explanations – from federal officials and the president, and from state and local officials.

Yet the media has chosen to focus instead on accusations, recriminations and individual stories of pain which, though compelling, blur the larger picture.

About two years ago, a similar situation existed regarding Iraq. The picture painted by the media contrasted with a very different view from the Bush administration. Neither the media nor the administration seemed interested in discovering answers to the burning questions foremost on the minds of the American public both serve. I laid out in an Along the Tracks post 20 questions which the media was refusing to ask about Iraq, in apparent fear the answers would not fit their pre-decided narrative.

Since that time, some of those questions have been answered, some not – but the discussion, at least, was ignited.

Now that most of the emergency response is completed in New Orleans, and the situation on the Gulf Coast seems to be stabilizing, it is time for the media to get working on the problems and failures exposed by Katrina. Instead, we continue to see the focus on personalities, political posturing and what is either deliberate deceptiveness or inexcusable ignorance by (especially network and cable news) reporters.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere is once again well in front of the mainstream media with investigation, explanation and background, answering a number of questions the mainstream media has not even considered. Yet many Americans do not have the opportunity to track down the work done by Brendan Loy, Hugh Hewitt, Brad DeLong and others. They may not even realize that work has occurred. The blogosphere is most powerful in distributing information when it prods the mainstream media into doing its proper job.

So today I am offering 20 unanswered questions for the mainstream media to investigate and report, based on what Americans need and want to know, rather than on what insiders and activists wish to see broadcast. As mentioned above, some early answers are already appearing in the blogosphere. There are many other unanswered questions, of course, but I believe these make a good start.

Journalists serve the public by providing information as accurate and complete as possible. It’s time for our mainstream media to begin fulfilling its duties in Katrina coverage.

20 Questions the Media Refuses to Ask Concerning Katrina

1. Did the evacuation of New Orleans follow the procedures outlined in the city’s emergency response plan?

2. Did New Orleans’ emergency response plan take into consideration those who would be unable to leave due to lack of transportation?

3. How is an evacuation considered “mandatory” when some people can choose not to leave without fear of legal repercussion and others are simply left behind because they cannot leave on their own?

4. Who approved the New Orleans hurricane response plan?

5. What were the criteria used to judge whether the New Orleans hurricane response plan was adequate?

6. What specific forms of aid from the federal government did Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin request, and when did they ask for each?

7. What preparations for response had the Federal Emergency Management Agency made in the days before Katrina struck?

8. Why was the Superdome so ill-prepared to be a shelter during and after Katrina?

9. Why was the convention center completely unprepared for use in the emergency, despite the mayor’s contention it was a secondary shelter point?

10. Why were the New Orleans police department and other city emergency response departments lacking a communications system capable of operating after a hurricane or flood – the city’s greatest threats?

11. Why didn’t the New Orleans police department – with the assistance of Louisiana and other National Guard troops, if necessary - secure the city immediately as the storm passed, prior to the levees breaking?

12. Once it was clear the police department had lost control of the city (early Wednesday), why were National Guard troops not immediately sent into the city by the governor?

13. Once it was clear the flooding had overwhelmed the city’s and Louisiana’s capabilities (late Wednesday), why didn’t President George Bush immediately act to take over the response?

14. What if any legal hurdles blocked federal action when failures of the city and state became clear?

15. Why were state governors outside the disaster area slow to activate their own National Guard troops to answer the need in Louisiana?

16. Why isn’t the reimbursement of states which provide National Guard troops in an emergency guaranteed by federal legislation?

17. Why is the human toll along the Mississippi coast – also largely destroyed by Katrina – so different from what we expect to see in New Orleans as the city is drained?

18. What, if any, infrastructure improvements could have prevented or at least mitigated the flooding of New Orleans?

19. Which infrastructure projects in Louisiana were given higher priority by the governor and the congressional delegation than protecting New Orleans?

20. Why are elective infrastructure projects around the country given higher priority than those aimed at the safety of vulnerable communities?

UPDATE: This Newsday story is a good first crack at some of the questions, but I still think a high profile effort by the networks, cable news outlets, major newspapers and the weekly news magazines is in order - after all, they remain the primary sources of news for most Americans. (Hat tip to Kausfiles.)



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