Katrina & the Press

The blame game being played in the aftermath of Katrina is as stunning and sickening as it is ridiculous. You can read all about this elsewhere, notably at Arthur Chrenkoff's site, but for the most part I think we observers have to withhold judgment. If you know nothing about disaster relief, establishing command and control centers, crowd control or relief distribution, you should hold your tongue right now, that's my view. Write your relief check and shut up.
One group I will criticize, however, is the big networks. Turned on the telly this morning to see and hear more about the enormous petrochemical explosion in NO. As I flicked channels, the GoodMorningThisMorningTodayIntheMorning shows were all running stories about the effects of Katrina. Even as I tried to resist it, I my blood pressure rising and a feeling of impending doom clouding my thoughts. Reporting from the scene and interviews with increasingly (appropriately) distraught people is one thing; the press does a necessary service in times of disaster by disseminating information and in some cases facilitating rescues. But the top news this morning was about rationing of gas (to stations, not consumers) at pumps and rising prices for everything that normally comes through the port of New Orleans. While it's true that the damage to refineries and a major national port means Katrina has been truly a national disaster, the breathless tone of every story was basically, "you're all going to suffer horribly, it's bad, bad, and going to get worse." I have no doubt those stories in themselves caused little runs on gas stations at just the moment we need people to conserve. Passing along the news we need: expect some shortages and delays because of Katrina is an important service. But the tone should be: and you can handle it. Not: the sky is falling.