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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Katrina spawned plague of misinformation

USA Today's headline captures it pretty well. And Hugh Hewitt reported this two weeks ago.

This event occurred on U.S. soil. It involved U.S. citizens. Reporters had pretty much full access (better even than FEMA, it seemed). It occurred in these modern times--last month--not in dark ages past. The reports were first-hand accounts from people we had no reason to question.

The reporters were enlightened people, professional journalists holding the highest standards, reinforced by their editors' multiple layers of checks and balances. Not the Weekly World News you see in the check-out line, but reputable organizations like CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, national newspapers.

And we had no reason to doubt what we were seeing with our own eyes.

Now we're left with a confusing mix of truth and fiction.

MORE: Richard Roeper helps sort things out in the Chicago Sun-Times.

10/19 Update: Gateway Pundit fact-checks statements made since Katrina. HT: Instapundit

12/23 Update, Mona Charen calls it the worst coverage of the year: "the fabric of reporting on Katrina has unraveled utterly, and it's enough to encourage caution -- if not outright cynicism -- about all reporting, particularly during emergencies."

3/7/2006: Hats off to Popular Mechanics Magazine for their debunking Katrina myths. (I've praised their debunking work before.) They show us Katrina's "Big Truth": The disaster response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest, fastest rescue in American history.


Comments:

(Please keep in mind that each commenter's opinions are only his/her own.)



I'm missing something. I expected to read the report you linked and find it riddled with reporters saying they made things up. The author uses Brian Thevenot's report early and then uses some of his comments later, but he never seems to negate the earlier quote. He either witnessed 40 bodies in a freezer or he didn't. Since he didn't come out and say "I never saw those bodies", I'm inclined to believe that he did.
 


So, were you relieved or disappointed not to find reporters saying they made things up? (Which would be worse?)

Ten deaths total between the Superdome and the Convention center, so 30-40 was false, as was the 7-year-old with her throat slit. Your inclination fools you.

Much more than reporters making things up, it's them dropping their standards and reporting any falsehood. Functionally, it's about the same.

It's a betrayal of the public, who relies on them for the truth. And, sadly, it could lead many to shrug off the next disaster as overblown hysteria.

Was it deliberate? Were there biases at work? E.g., "It's probably true, and [insert-a-disadvantaged-group's-name-here] will be better off if I report it." Or, "If I rigorously fact-check this, I'll be seen as a racist, or insensitive to the plight of the poor." I doubt we'll ever get to the bottom of these questions.
 


My inclination fools me...

Rather, it was the omission of important information in your initial post that fooled me.

It would've been helpfull if you'd included those links into your main post. The links you included didn't negate the guy's story. Logically, I had no reason to disbelieve it.

Now that I can see that his story was, indeed false, I see your point and I agree. That's pretty shamefull.

My inclination fools me... Sheesh.
 


I had assumed that Hewitt was bringing those things up as examples of bad reporting. So when you said what you did I had to find out for sure. Didn't mean it as an omission.

And that kinda goes back to my original point: bombarded by a mix of truth and fiction leaves us muddling and guessing our way through it all.

Sorry 'bout that "inclination fools you" remark. :-/
 


S'aright. It gave me a chance to use your trademarked "Sheesh". ;)
 


Credit where due: my trademarked "Sheesh" is really Instapundit's.

I'm slammed with work, but pondering your other comment.

Sewerden's off-line? What's up?
 


Yeah, it's been down for about a week. I'm still not sure what the problem is. I'm downloading Fedora Core 4 right now in the hopes that a quick upgrade will save it. The problem started when my display frequency settings changed so that I couldn't even see the X Window session. Then, a day or so later, I couldn't SSH into the box either. This all happened right after I installed a bunch of Red Hat updates.

If this doesn't work, I have another box I can move the site over to. Of course, I'm about to head out to DC for a week for work, so who knows when it'll get done...
 

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