Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Media and "What took so long?"

That's the question on everyone's minds: why did it take so long for relief efforts to begin? We don't have cable, so this week I watched NBC Nightly News for coverage of events (beside various websites and blogs), and by Thursday, this question was at the forefront.

And understandably so: thousands of people were without food and water and other basic human needs. It doesn't take much to understand why this question was being asked.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem that MSM (or at least NBC) was too interested in actually getting an answer to that question. In the multiple segments I saw dealing with the issue, the majority of each story was devoted to showing the misery of those waiting for relief, as well as to those calling for relief to arrive more quickly. Gov't officials were interviewed, but never in what I would describe as a systematic way. It seemed as if the reporter had already concluded that the gov't (at whatever level, but usually the federal) had dropped the ball, and hence any answer given was immediately suspect. Rather than attempting to find the truth, it seemed that reporters were more interested in trying to get officials to admit their mistakes.

Instead, why didn't they present those responsible with a list of questions and let them respond in detail? For instance...
  • Why were there so many people left in the city when Katrina made landfall?

  • When were the Louisiana National Guard deployed into NOLA? And was this deployment en masse, or piecemeal?

  • Were relief supplies pre-positioned around NOLA before Katrina made landfall? If not, why?

  • From tv reports, it appears that the relief effort was slow in coming and in delivering. If the relief supplies were pre-positioned around NOLA, what efforts were made to deliver those supplies, when did those efforts begin, and to what extent?

  • Again from various media reports, it appears that communication networks within and among the various agencies and gov'ts responsible for relief efforts were inadequate if not not existent. Is this the case, and if so, why? Wouldn't those agencies be prepared to establish those communications networks in situations like these?

    (NB: I do think that there are good answers to at least some of these questions.)
Unfortunately, the stories I've seen haven't proceeded in such a manner. Again, the modus operandi seems to be to assume that mistakes were made, and to get the officials responsible for them to just admit it.

I, for one, would like these sorts of questions answered first, and then we can proceed with determining culpability.

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