Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rita Media: Storm porn, fast-food news & the blogosphere

In his "Six Lessons from Online Coverage of Hurricane Rita," columnist Mark Glaser of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication has written eloquently and deeply about how bloggers "helped Big Media get beyond the cliched wind shots on TV" ... or "storm porn," as Houston blogger Laurence Simon called it.

Among his most pertinent points: Bloggers made storm coverage more personal, and went well beyond loop after loop after loop after loop of pictures of the same traffic signs whizzing down the same stormy street. If you read his article, you'll probably be surprised by some things, and not so much by others (such as our simultaneous fascination and fear of Mother Nature's worst behavior.)

From a newspaperman-blogger's perspective, posting allowed me to present -- in real time -- a more intimate view than a reporter's obligations generally allow. As much as bloggers would like to think, that's no substitute for the news reporting, merely a complement to the bigger story. Bloggers would be Category 5 narcissists to claim that they somehow got it right when the sum-total of MSM got it wrong, that they "scooped" the MSM, or that their view was factually superior. What bloggers did was add a precious and intimate perspective.

And here's a frightening thought: How do you know I am where or who I say I am at this moment? You don't. Cyberspace has more than its share of snake-oil peddlers, swindlers, fakers, liars and cheaters. Many are bloggers. If the New York Times' Jayson Blair can sit in his New York apartment and file stolen or contrived stories from around America for the world's most respected newspaper, why couldn't some wildly imaginative blogger sit alone in his dark Detroit apartment and spin hairy tales of riding out a storm 1,000 miles away? Such mendacity plagues blogging and cyber-communications, and will for the foreseeable future.

One of the blogs Glaser cites was a reporter's notebook by James Zambroski, a TV journalist:

"Every single building has some sort of damage," he wrote of the scene along Highway 27 south of Lake Charles. "The ones standing look like cantaloupes with the seeds scooped out: you see right through them. Cars and pickups flipped and twisted, their tires sticking out of the water. Graves washed open, the famed above-ground burial crypts of Louisiana smashed apart, the slabs now scattered apart like a deck of cards tossed by a loser."

Glaser also repeats a marvelous word our headline writers will kick themselves for not thinking of first. To describe the massive evacuation of more than a million people, a flight that was ultimately fatal for some and frustrating for all, one blogger used the word: Texodus

Perfect.

4 comments:

Banjo Jones said...

fyi: i saw "Texodus" as a hed in a mainstream paper. Mighta been the NY Post.

Orion said...

I second the sighting of Texodus in a New York paper. I was watching national news and they were showing newspaper headlines from around the country.

Ron Franscell said...

Gosh, I hate it when some niggling little fact keeps me awake all day!

I certainly concede the possibility of the NY Post first using "Texodus" to describe the mass evacuation from Hurricane Rita last week.

BUT ... a quick Web search shows that there was a 2003 conference called "Texodus," apparently a religious event for "everyone [in Texas] whose lives have been touch in some way by homosexuality."

It's also the name of an Austin reggae group.

Other references, too numerous to explore or mention, apparently exist, too, according to my secret source (Google.)

Oh well, it's still a great one-word headline for the headlong flight away from the storm swath-to-be.

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