August 31, 2005

Hump Day Media Bashing

It's early, I'm tired, and I'm not going to pretend that I can adequately string a series of related, sensical thoughts together. The message I'd like to convey is simple: I'm fucking sick of the American media.

Over the last couple of days, we've had a chance to witness the media at its worst. We've been scared, shown bumpers and graphics meant to get our blood pressure up. Then we've been spoke to as if we're idiots. We've been shown lame graphics because it's assumed we don't understand what being below sea-level means. We've been pelted with sensationalism, like unexpected hail on a hot summer day. Terms like complete devistation, hell on earth, and armageddon have not merely been sprinkled throughout but actually innundated each newscast. Of course, such sensationalism gets in the way of, well, facts.

Reporters looking for their shot have cornered the recently widowed or homeless then turned the cameras on themselves to show the tears streaming down their faces. Dry cameramen, safe in their boats, shoot footage of pedestrians trying to haul all their earthly belongings through waist-high water. Confident they'll rest cool and easy, anchors camp out in the Superdome so they can talk about the stench of so many confined humans. And my favorites - the reporters dressed in their rain gear who stand in the middle of a hurricane then act surprised by the force of the wind. Well, you're standing outside in a hurricane, you idiot.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a journalist. I even ran the high school newspaper for three years (cough dork cough). I know that there's a fine line between reporting and editorializing. Our media, in most cases, just doesn't care. It's about sensationalism at the cost of real issues, with real importance, caused by and impacting real people. News isn't entertainment. It's, well, news and should be treated as sacred with as much integrity as each reporter, each photographer, each camerman, producer, director and anchor can muster.

I guess the worst part is that we watch this shit. If we didn't, they'd be forced to change how they reported the news.

Out of all this, one message that shouldn't get lost at any cost is that the millions of displaced folks in the Gulf region need help. We pulled together after 9/11. We did the same following the tsunami that devistated parts of Asia. We can do the same now. The list below was prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and represents charities who have agreed to handle direct cash donations and assist the individuals, families and businesses hardest hit in the Gulf Coast region.

American Red Cross
1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English,
1-800-257-7575 Spanish

Operation Blessing

America’s Second Harvest

Adventist Community Services

Catholic Charities, USA
703 549-1390

Christian Disaster Response
941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

Church World Service

Convoy of Hope

Lutheran Disaster Response

Mennonite Disaster Service

Nazarene Disaster Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Salvation Army
1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief
1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440

United Methodist Committee on Relief

Posted by Chris at August 31, 2005 8:00 AM

anyone have buckets of pocket change around the house? you can donate it directly to the Red Cross through some coinstar machines.

i know i have a few coffee cans full of pennies, nickles and dimes that will be going...

Posted by: monique at August 31, 2005 8:08 AM

Amen, brother. Report the news, show the picture, then move on to the next story. If I want "color," I'll read more about it elsewhere. I personally think they should do away with the 24-hour "news/media entertainment" channels. Maybe keep the "Headline News" station that has actual anchors delivering succinct, factual reports, but the CNN/MSNBC/FOXNEWS crap has to GO! **stepping off soapbox**

Posted by: mooalex at August 31, 2005 8:08 AM

i know, isn't the media horrible? on the 11pm news last night, after those crazy storms moved through here, they had the audacity to say that we had experienced our "own devastation from Katrina" because there were some brief tornadoes. i couldn't believe it! New Orlean is a LAKE now, areas of Mississippi are completely torn apart... and here they are, making our storms out to be "horrifying" and "tragic"! not to mention everything you just talked about, too. i swear... the media is so... corrupt (that's the only word that fits at this point).

i'm going to be organizing a fundraiser with my Jaycee chapter to get money sent down to the Gulf area. hopefully we'll be able to get a good amount of funds. i feel so terribly sad for people in that area...

Posted by: Judy at August 31, 2005 8:14 AM

Thanks, Chris. I stayed up last night much later than was good for me searching for some signs of the city I love so much amid the flooding...

Posted by: jen at August 31, 2005 8:19 AM

Amen... in the medieval group that I'm a part of, we've been very lucky to have heard from most of my friends in the area, and we've started up our own fundraiser and relay of supplies to the area. I've been purposely distancing myself from the media as much as possible, because I can't stand watching it for the same reasons you described.

Posted by: amber at August 31, 2005 8:20 AM

excellent post! my heart aches much devastation.

Posted by: Tricia at August 31, 2005 8:34 AM

The sad thing is that we really no have choice but to watch. If we want to get at least some of the facts, we have to put up with a whole lotta bullshit and extract what we think might be real news. There is a newscast here in Cleveland that Mr. JuJu and I refuse to watch because of the blatant sensationalism and lengths they will go to get a story. It's sick. Thanks for this post.

Posted by: JuJuBee at August 31, 2005 8:59 AM

One more reason to make me feel about not having a TV. Cuts down on the brainwashing.

At the gym, I watch some idiot turn off the movie playing on the TV, switch it to the 24/7 Hurricane Media Exploitation Channel, and then leave to go in the shower. Dude, did you think you were helping us out or something? I turned it off.

Posted by: Jon in Michigan at August 31, 2005 9:19 AM

Agreed on media lunacy (although I'm one of those idiots who is helped by satelite pictures with graphics- it brings home the literal horror of the destruction). I'm also troubled by people who fail to respond to evacuation orders and then need to be airlifted off their roofs; I think this reflects both an insenstivity to media after years of "hype" reporting but also, sadly, our attachment to our material lives and the importance of "stuff" at the risk of life.
Again you do a great public service with your list of agencies- thank you Chris for taking the time to assemble that.

Posted by: Vicki at August 31, 2005 9:23 AM

Thank you so much for posting this list Chris...I too was watching the news yesterday when I came upon a choked up reporter interviewing a now homeless resident. The camera focused more on the reporter than on the woman and she was cut off a couple times while telling her story while the reporter "apologized" and "thanked her for her story". It made me so mad to watch it, the people have been through enough than to have the media focus more on the "traumatized" reporters.

Posted by: Dana at August 31, 2005 9:28 AM

You know, I don't think I've watched the news on TV in almost a year or two. And only then when others had it on. But that of course has much to do with my issues about TV. *cough*

I used to live in the area below Houston, and I haven't heard anything from our old friends there. I probably won't for a while. My heart is with them all. It is a harsh thing, and shouldn't be played up for ratings.

Posted by: autumn at August 31, 2005 9:28 AM

My heart goes out to the people in the South who were affected. One thing that makes me incredibly angry is the media trying to compare this to the tsunami. I'm sorry, people down South? Have access to water and medical care. The death toll is horrible, but will not be nearly as high. Our country is PHENOMINAL at taking care of problems like these, because the people interviewed speak English.

So, people affected by the tsunami are still being affected, some in horrible, awful ways we Americans probably never consider.

And hopefully, we never have to.

Posted by: alektra at August 31, 2005 9:31 AM

It's like it's disaster porn. I hate that there isn't any NEWS after the first few hours. It's just yet another shot of flooded houses and devastated people. Is that making anyone's life better to see those images on repeat. Thanks for writing about this. You're speaking my mind.

Posted by: verucaamish at August 31, 2005 9:38 AM

Oh gawd, I am so glad I do not have a television. Thanks for the update on what I'm not missing out on. PHEW! And to think, I could be getting informed or something!

And more importantly, thanks for getting the word out on the list of charities directly funneling aid where it's needed. I'll be linking to your post. ASAP.

Posted by: Keri at August 31, 2005 9:50 AM

I've been trying to avoid the sensationalism - not because I don't care about what happened, but because of the way the media is portraying it - those reporters standing in their boats should feel ashamed that they aren't helping the people.

Posted by: Marie at August 31, 2005 10:05 AM

I understand. I was watching yesterday as this reporter interviewed a man who'd lost grip of his wife's hand, and couldn't find her. He was sobbing and so was the reporter, and there I sat, crying... just because that man is only one of the many who've lost loved ones. My father went through Camile in Nelson County, VA, and lost half of his cousins. I spoke with him last night, and he said he would have been furious had someone stuck a microphone in his face. I just want to scream at the journalists, HELP THOSE PEOPLE OUT YOU FREAKIN IDIOT!!! Don't just sit there and run the camera. I really wish there was more I could do than just give. I know both of my grandparents are going down with the Baptist Disaster Relief this week to feed the homeless and displaced, and I thought of going, but I can't. I feel so helpless and really, my heart just breaks for those in need, and I just pray that someone will show them grace, and offer them hope.

Posted by: Corinne at August 31, 2005 10:15 AM

It truly is unbelievable the way the media manipulates every story and their audience. And you're right, it's totally our own faults for watching this shit - but you know, I'd like to know what's going on down there. Just without all the talk of towns looking like they would if they were struck by nuclear war. Is all that really necessary?

And the journalists and camera crews that just shove the camera in these people's face who have just lost everything they've ever worked for their entire life? HOW DO YOU FEEL? I would grab the journalist by their larynx and scream HOW DO YOU THINK I FUCKING FEEL?


Posted by: RockStar Mommy at August 31, 2005 10:17 AM

I know!
They need to focus on getting medicine, food and water! leave those grieving people alone, don't stick the camera on them when the poor woman can't even find a bra to put on and their lives are ripped apart and happy that they found their pet rock! They are in shock people...HELP them, don't use them for your own benefits! GAH...

I hate the media! AND they keep showing OVER AND OVER again the same footage!!! Same people and stories...there are millions of stories...but the point is to HELP THEM! Thanks for the post Chris!

Posted by: Gypsy at August 31, 2005 10:19 AM

I DON'T watch that shit. I don't enjoy watching them parade their egos before the watching world. That crap is what remotes and channel surfing are for.

Posted by: Queen of Ass at August 31, 2005 10:44 AM

This is why I get my news from The Daily Show.

Posted by: Jason at August 31, 2005 11:00 AM

I had the TV on for a couple of hours yesterday, but finally had to turn it off.

Then I went here and made a donation.

Despite that, I still feel helpless.

Posted by: Allan at August 31, 2005 11:01 AM

I'm going to take another view on this one. I agree that sensationalism is running rampant...however, I'm glad they are taping what they can (I'm not talking about the inappropriate interviews or whatnot)...I'm glad they are documenting what has happened for numerous reasons: history, science, our future....

I them...but keep taping.

EEk *duck and cover*

Posted by: Amy at August 31, 2005 11:04 AM

Thanks Chris. I was wishing more bloggers would write about this devastation, its a great way to reach people. So many of my friends lived in New Orleans and they have lost EVERYTHING. I am devastated for them and for the loss of the city of New Orleans....I fear she will never be the same.

I'm begging people to give to the Red Cross....they need lots and lots and lots of money....

Posted by: Lisa at August 31, 2005 11:10 AM

i did not know about the coinstar and red cross connection. i have milk jars full of change.

one thing i would mention, only because i tend to forget, check to see if your employer has a matching program. i would take my milk jugs in to coinstar and donate them, except if i donate the same amount to the red cross through work, my employer will match it.

Posted by: jodi at August 31, 2005 11:19 AM

I caught one bit on some 24-hour news outlet, in which the news woman was moved to tears (she literally sobbed) by the fact that her camera man worked all day on a broken leg to bring this coverage to us.

The coverage was a voice over of her set to her photograph, and a few shots driving around in a car.

I found un unbelieveably self-serving.

Posted by: shannon at August 31, 2005 11:28 AM

You see, this is why I don't watch the news. After 9/11, I haven't been able to b/c of the images shown. I can't even watch the re-enactments on Discovery, they freak me out.

Posted by: Dooneybug at August 31, 2005 11:31 AM

What blows my mind in particular is that some of the media (and thus, many Americans) have the gall to compare the events of this hurricane to the tsunami in Asia last year. I agree, it is a human tragedy all the same - the loss of lives and homes sucks universally - but the scale is nowhere close.

My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and their livelihoods, but I would challenge people to remember that these types of things happen all over the world every day - something many Americans seem to forget.

Posted by: Mel at August 31, 2005 11:39 AM

I'm so glad that I am not the only who feels this way about the media. I've also set up donation links on my site.
Like I said there.. every dollar helps.

Good job with this post!

Posted by: Angelia at August 31, 2005 12:21 PM

I saw a particularly horrible piece of news on the web today about a woman having to sit with her husband's body until officials could come. Worse, you could see his legs in the picture. It has gone too far.

Posted by: alfredsmom at August 31, 2005 12:26 PM

I've basically just turned off the news, but I can't help but refresh yahoo news to see more of it. It's a bit morbid when I think of it and so, so sad.

Posted by: C at August 31, 2005 1:00 PM

The BBC tends to report news. I don't watch much TV, but catch their reports on the net.

Posted by: Theresa at August 31, 2005 1:34 PM

I saw something kind of unusual on CNN this morning. Daryn Kaegen (sp?) was talking to one of their reporters who was in Biloxi. This reporter grew up there and her brother and his family live there still. They rode out the storm and were fortunate enough to have a house left. At the end of the segment, Daryn Kaegen, that horse-faced bitch (I hate her I hate her I hate her) made some comment about how she was glad that this reporter's family made it through just fine and still had a house. The reporter gave the camera this look of absolute disgust, as if to say, "Please do not single us out, LOOK at the people who have lost homes and loved ones." It gave me a small glimmer of hope.

Posted by: Rhonda at August 31, 2005 1:49 PM

Well, I will say, I live down here. It's damn near as bad as all that. The death toll in New Orleans is unknown. They can't GET a body count.

Right now, I have no power. The trucks from my town were routed to "metropolitan" areas to get power on there. Meanwhile, I'm under a "boil water" order. Our power company is co-op. Meaning WE paid for those trucks. Yet, we're baking and in danger of all sorts of goodies from the water. Which I can't boil...cause I don't have electricity.

It's pretty bad.

I'm at a friend's house. I had to get out of the traffic. It's stand still, but I had to get gas before I ran out.

And to make my life much happier...I lost my job on Friday. YAY.

Happy times, folks. Happy times.

Posted by: Holly at August 31, 2005 2:40 PM

It was galling to watch the reporters in the hurricane. I had to turn it off because it seemed more like 'The Enquirer' on someone was hoping that a reporter would get hit in the head with part of a Walmart sign.

Posted by: angela marie at August 31, 2005 2:55 PM

I guess I'm going to be the voice of dissent here...

It's different somehow when it affects you directly. When you have friends there. When you grew up there. When you consider it your hometown and you WANT to see everything...and more, more, more.

It's personal. I keep hoping they'll show something I can recognize. Only they don't. Because it's all gone. Gone.

Posted by: kalisah at August 31, 2005 3:20 PM

here's a link to help the animals that survived this devastation (if anyones interested)

Posted by: reader at August 31, 2005 3:55 PM

I think the media's got an important job to do. Do they do it well? Not typically. But I do hope that the over-sensationalized coverage will at least drive it home to those in other areas who think about ignoring evacuation orders in the future.

And yes, you're right: the media is what it is because it's what Americans watch. They make economic decisions about what will draw the most viewers - so perhaps the place to start finger-pointing is within the average American household.

But in all the hype - from the media or about it - let's not overlook the relatively buried story of the 800-some muslim shiite pilgrims who were trampled to death in Iraq, most of them women and children. The largest single-incident loss of life since the war began.


Posted by: Tonya at August 31, 2005 4:32 PM


I don't watch the news. I really don't. I've been known to turn off the tv when I see too many "teasers" for the news because I get irritated.

I get all of my news from the web, but is that really any better? I'm not sure, but I do know that I can control what I read. Oh, what's that article say? J.Lo's butt has doubled in size? Coooool. (I'm just kidding! I would never read articles about J.Lo's butt when there are more important articles to be read about Britney Spears's pregnancy. Again! I jest! I read the BBC and Yahoo! News. I swear!)

Posted by: Noelle at August 31, 2005 5:03 PM

Damn straight.

We don't do television news here either...

Posted by: lu at August 31, 2005 6:04 PM

It's really gross-
They should all be shot.
Except Anderson Cooper-
He's kind of hot.

I didn't mean to make it into a silly poem, because the truth is the coverage is out of control. It's totally wrong and I hate to say it, but there are so many people in George Bush's America that lap that shit up. These are the same people who read tabloids and think the sky is falling on a normal day. Their lives are lacking something so they turn to the biggest drama they can find to make them feel more, I don't know, alive?

Thank you for your contribution. There is a lot we cannot control (especially the way the media covers this tragedy) but we can chip in and help in small ways that add up to a lot.

Posted by: Ms. Q at August 31, 2005 6:46 PM

great post. it's a shame how the media is covering this - apparently the weather channel's hurricane updates are sponsored by the six flags hurricane ride or something? - i saw that on a dc blogger's page...definately in poor taste....

right now workers for the cbc are on strike in canada so we're getting the BBC news piped in...interesting to get their perspective. much different than the news coverage i'm getting from the states...

Posted by: suze at August 31, 2005 7:07 PM

Do you ever watch the Daily Show on Comedy Central? I have a feeling that is a show that you would really appreciate. I feel the same way about the media. I am disgusted by the relentless coverage. The focus should really be on how people can help.

Posted by: Nicole at August 31, 2005 7:32 PM

I'm watching the news b/c I'm still trying to wrap my head around what happened. Seeing nothing but rooftop islands is surreal.

We donated some money, but we're going to try and donate time. Since most of the refugees came to Houston, the shelters need all the help they can get. I'm proud to call myself a Houstonian though, our city is really pulling together to help all those in need. :)

Posted by: Kitty at August 31, 2005 7:47 PM

I gotta agree with you on the media. The day after my sister was killed by a drunk driver, we had the media knocking on the door of our house. They even had the nerve to call us at the funeral parlor as we were making plans to bury my sister.

Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Posted by: Colleen at August 31, 2005 8:58 PM

I totally agree. How's this for an idea?

If all major businesses were to donate 50% of their profits from Labor Day sales, and all broadcasters donated 50% of ad revenues this weekend (for things we can't think about buying now) think of how much could go towards the relief effort.

Posted by: L at September 1, 2005 1:50 AM

Last night, on "Inside Edition" they played a song (I think it was "Bridge Over Troubled Waters") and showed sad pictures of people crying and stuff in Louisiana and probably Mississippi as well. It made me so mad, because it was nothing but propaganda.

And speaking of Mississippi, have we forgotten it? All the news is about New Orleans. I guess people forgot about Gulfport, Biloxi, and even Alabama.

Posted by: Stephanie at September 1, 2005 7:20 AM

I agree completely. I try to get most of my updates on the internet for that very reason, but I've also seen many examples of what you talked about. It makes me cringe.

Posted by: Zandria at September 1, 2005 11:03 AM

It's nothing short of horrible. Normal human reactions seem to be warped. How can anyone just sit there, camera in hand, and just shoot away? How can they NOT reach out and help? I have often thought that the world is getting more and more desensitized. The media is trying to evoke stronger reactions by showing more shocking images. It seems like all the reality the media sees is ratings.
I hope Katrina's victims get all the help and support they need and that senses are regained soon.

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