The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Katrina coverage disastrous

No one will question the horrors that accompany pictures of the damage in New Orleans. There is something upsetting about looking at landscapes of a dynamic city with streets filled with water, buildings with windows blown out, highways that are submerged, an infrastructure that is completely destroyed.

Even worse are the sentiments hidden within the articles about those that stayed behind to wait out the storms, people that could not, in many

cases, afford a way out of the city. People that are submerged in a poverty that is almost unbelievable, both refugees from the disaster, and

prisoners in their own city until they can get a lift out.

It seems as though reporters covering this disaster did not know that it is the poor that waited around, displaced in the Louisiana Superdome, wading around in chest-deep water, looting neighborhood supermarkets. The actions of these people quickly became the story of the week, and the focus of the disaster. Tuesday morning, Aug. 30, I remember reading coverage that focused mostly on the estimations of damage and dramatic rescues that took place across New Orleans; by Thursday, the key word in the news was "lawlessness."

I found something unsettling about the news coverage of the hurricane. With each day last week, the coverage worsened, and was sickening. Those journalists writing stories down in New Orleans became self-assigned moral judges, and multiple politicians they quoted played the role as well. The focus was no longer how those in New Orleans needed help. Rather, the stories outlined what the reader could suspect to be savages "nearly rioting" outside of the Superdome at any sight of food, wading in a pool of filth and dead bodies, rushing towards the few buses that managed to make it through a bad traffic jam.

I am finding that as the news coverage of this horrific tragedy unfolds, the coverage becomes more inappropriate: Placing judgment upon people in a genuinely bad situation, people that are undoubtedly hungry, tired, sick of the stench, and homeless, displaced by the storm.

As everything else was destroyed, the journalists and the politicians seemed surprised that the law was destroyed as well; surprised that people wading through filth in a desperate situation were acting "immoral."

I think that this coverage of the aftermath of the hurricane is disastrous in itself, and the comments made by journalists and politicians

alike are deplorable. Where is the compassion that greeted the victims of the country's worst terrorist attack? Where is the compassion that

greeted the victims of the tsunamis nearly a world away? It is as though these journalists wish to hold these desperate people to a higher moral

standard than other victims of natural disaster, because they are Americans, because they are of our kind. "Americans don't act like that in truly bad situations; Americans are moral; Americans are lawful," their stories seem to say.

Those poor people at the Superdome, huddled within their own stench, huddled after looting the city for food and looking for water, for survival. As disgusting as the situation that they find themselves in, so too is the exploitation we find in the news coverage, exhibited by a true lack of compassion, traded for an opportunity to practice moral judgment at a terribly inappropriate time.

This viewpoint was published in The Marquette Tribune on September 6, 2005.

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