Examining the media’s role in Katrina

Nate Sharir

The media has had a very intriguing and exciting summer full of stories to cover. They had the ever-fascinating personal lives of Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson. They had the ongoing search and breakthroughs regarding the whereabouts of Natalee Holloway. They also had their share of news events to cover, such as the bombings in London and the naming of John Roberts to be the successor to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor.

One topic that was frequently covered throughout the summer, though, was the effects of hurricane season. Periodically, the media kept society informed of what storms hit what areas. But, it was when Hurricane Katrina arrived that the media hit their jackpot. And while the hurricane created a storm on the Gulf Coast, the media created a storm of excess coverage.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf States on Aug. 29, the media pulled no punches in order to cover the action. The broadcast news programs had on-air pieces concerning the flooding as well as reactions of people who were affected by the storm. Cable news channels aired constant footage of the flooding as well as reactions from news analysts.

Since cable news channels had a lot of space to fill in their coverage, they were able to designate a significant amount of time to the topic.

With all the coverage and attention Katrina got, people began discussing the flooding and aftermath even more than the ongoing war in Iraq, which incidentally did not get the coverage that it deserved during the summer.

While residents of the Gulf States were dealing with the aftermath, the media began their next step in the process: allotting time for hurricane relief specials, pledge drives, and reactions from Hollywood celebrities as well. The concept of celebrity was very effectual as many well-known faces like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Anniston answered phone calls during the “Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast”, which aired Sept. 9th on NBC, ABC, CBS, and some cable networks as well.

As time went on, however, the media continued to devote a lot of time to the effects of the hurricane. Since the storm provided action and the families that were affected by the aftermath provided drama, the media has the ability to fur-ther fill up airtime to keep their audiences watching and reading. And the more that people tuned in to the coverage, the media continued to keep society begging for more information and direction. This resulted in both a domination of excess coverage and media dependence.

However, people can do more than simply rely on the media to tell them what to do towards the situation. They can donate money out of their own savings accounts. People can submit clothing and other materials to the Salvation Army that could be given to hurricane victims in the Gulf States. Colleges are admitting students who have been affected by the hurricane as well as holding food drives. People are able to make a difference. While the media can be helpful in conveying the message, people can take it into their own hands to express compassion for a cause.