Wednesday, May 4, 2011

If it Bleeds, It Leads

Andrea Blamble
It is undeniable that Hurricane Katrina could be considered one of the worst natural disasters when it comes to the response and aftermath. Watching all of the events unfold was an overload of sensory information, because as Americans had access to 24 hour news coverage. The images were both shocking and devastating as more lives were being lost and more cities were being destroyed. But when is a photo or story too much and considered borderline intrusive and emotionally harmful?

According to the Media Awareness Network, US Officials asked news media to not take any pictures of those individuals killed by Hurricane Katrina. In an email to the Washington Post, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wrote, “The recovery of victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect and we have respect that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media”. But within just a few seconds of searching on Google you are able to find a overwhelmingly amount of photos of victims who lost their lives, so apparently both the media and public did not adhere to the demands of FEMA.

Ethics plays a huge part in this situation where those bodies in the photos and stories are someone’s sister, brother, mother or even father. Broadcasting these images of their death is clearly emotional harm to their families, those residents within Louisiana and even the general public. A whole new discussion could be created just addressing the role that internet played in dehumanizing the aftermath and deaths related to Hurricane Katrina.

There are many questions on whether the media properly portrayed the disaster and whether they took advantage of the victims and those who lost their lives during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Some argue that media coverage portrayed the “survivors of Hurricane Katrina as a fiscally irresponsible, uneducated population. On the contrary, most families on the Gulf Coast were fiscally smart, hardworking, assiduous people. These families made enough money each month to pay their bills, send their children to school, secure medical and home insurance, and live modest but comfortable lives.”

In Myth-Making in New Orleans by Brian Thevenot, it discusses the roles and actions of the media in relation to their coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “Some television outlets’ willingness to put media-haters on air to bash the press only made the problem worse. “It was typical self-abuse that follows media mistakes, and it became an equally unhelpful debate, an ‘are not! Are too!’ debate over whether the media was biased or whatever”” In the midst of any already terrible situation the media coverage could be seen as a even more confusing and disheartening event.

Many individuals spoke out against the media coverage and how it portrayed residents as violent looters. Which goes along with the interesting discussion we had in class about the controversial AP photos that had comments that incriminated individuals based on the color of their skin. New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass was one of those individuals who lashed out at the media for their biased techniques.

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