Quantcast

Katrina Media Coverage Fails

N8 v2.0

Not the sharpest tool in the shed
Oct 18, 2002
11,007
149
The Cleft of Venus
Rut-Row!!!! The media reports half truths, rumors and lies???

No way!


:rolleyes:



Some Reports of N.O. Violence Exaggerated
Sep 27 2:01 PM US/Eastern
By MICHELLE ROBERTS
Associated Press Writer



NEW ORLEANS - On Sept. 1, with desperate Hurricane Katrina evacuees crammed into the convention center, Police Chief Eddie Compass reported: "We have individuals who are getting raped; we have individuals who are getting beaten."

Five days later, he told Oprah Winfrey that babies were being raped. On the same show, Mayor Ray Nagin warned: "They have people standing out there, have been in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."

The ugliest reports _ children with slit throats, women dragged off and raped, corpses piling up in the basement _ soon became a searing image of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The stories were told by residents trapped inside the Superdome and convention center and were repeated by public officials. Many news organizations, including The Associated Press, carried the witness accounts and official pronouncements, and in some cases later repeated the claims as fact, without attribution.

But now, a month after the chaos subsided, police are re-examining the reports and finding that many of them have little or no basis in fact.

They have no official reports of rape and no eyewitnesses to sexual assault. The state Department of Health and Hospitals counted 10 dead at the Superdome and four at the convention center. Only two of those are believed to have been murdered.

One of those victims _ found at the Superdome _ appears to have been killed elsewhere before being brought to the stadium, said Bob Johannessen, the agency spokesman.

"It was a chaotic time for the city. Now that we've had a chance to reflect back on that situation, we're able to say right now that things were not the way they appeared," said police Capt. Marlon Defillo.

Sally Forman, a spokeswoman for Nagin, said the mayor was relying on others for his information about conditions at the evacuation sites. "He was listening to officials, trusting that information they were providing was accurate," she said.

To be sure, conditions at both sites were chaotic. Water was rising around the Superdome, home to 20,000 evacuees. Toilets were backing up, garbage was rotting, fights were breaking out. Food was in short supply at the convention center, where about 19,000 people took shelter from the rising waters. The temperature was climbing. The elderly and very young were desperate for food, water and medicine.

Police said they saw muzzle flashes at the convention center, and a National Guard member was shot in the leg when an evacuee tried to take his gun.

A week after the floodwaters poured into the city, an Arkansas National Guardsman told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans that soldiers had discovered 30 to 40 bodies inside a freezer in the convention center's food area. Guardsman Mikel Brooks told the newspaper that some of the dead appeared to have met violent ends, including "a 7-year-old with her throat cut."

When the convention center was swept, however, no such pile of bodies was found.

Lt. Col. Jacques Thibodeaux of the Louisiana National Guard said reports of violence at the Superdome and the convention center were overblown. He was head of security at the Superdome and led the 1,000 military police and infantrymen who went in to secure the center on Sept. 2.

"The incidents were highly exaggerated" _ the result of fear and hopelessness, he said. "For the amount of the people in the situation, it was a very stable environment."

Thibodeaux said his guard unit received no reports of rape.

Bill Waldron, a homicide detective from Florida in New Orleans for a murder trial, was stuck in the convention center until Sept. 1. He said he saw a couple of fights between young men, but "no murders, no rapes." He said that he did see people dying, but that those deaths were most likely a result of the heat and lack of water.

"People were wanting just some type of authority to come in and say, `Hey, this is what's going to happen,'" Waldron said. "People were scared."

New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan said officials at the morgue in St. Gabriel have identified four apparent homicide victims from the city. All were shot and all were adults. Police arrested one person on suspicion of attempted sexual assault but received no official reports of rape.

Judy Benitez, executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, cautioned that it might be too soon to say whether there really were rapes at the evacuation sites. Because the evacuees and any perpetrators have been scattered across the country by Katrina, and now Hurricane Rita, victims may come forward later, she said.

"It is extremely difficult to get good statistics about rape under normal circumstances, and these are certainly not normal circumstances," she said.

Bill Ellis, a folklorist at Pennsylvania State University, said rumors in an environment like that at the evacuation centers are to be expected, given the frightening circumstances and paucity of authoritative information.

"Rumors become improvised news. You become your own anchorman," he said.

The chaos also seemed to affect some reporters and editors, said Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics to journalists at the Poynter Institute, a journalism research and education center in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"You get so hung up as a reporter on what the big picture is that you use generalizations that become untrue," McBride said.
 

N8 v2.0

Not the sharpest tool in the shed
Oct 18, 2002
11,007
149
The Cleft of Venus
More media tales commentary...



Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy
Rumors supplanted accurate information and media magnified the problem. Rapes, violence and estimates of the dead were wrong.

By Susannah Rosenblatt and James Rainey, Times Staff Writers

BATON ROUGE, La. — Maj. Ed Bush recalled how he stood in the bed of a pickup truck in the days after Hurricane Katrina, struggling to help the crowd outside the Louisiana Superdome separate fact from fiction. Armed only with a megaphone and scant information, he might have been shouting into, well, a hurricane.

The National Guard spokesman's accounts about rescue efforts, water supplies and first aid all but disappeared amid the roar of a 24-hour rumor mill at New Orleans' main evacuation shelter. Then a frenzied media recycled and amplified many of the unverified reports.

"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," Bush said Monday of the Superdome.

His assessment is one of several in recent days to conclude that newspapers and television exaggerated criminal behavior in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, particularly at the overcrowded Superdome and Convention Center.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified "rapes," and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of "scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials."

Indeed, Mayor C. Ray Nagin told a national television audience on "Oprah" three weeks ago of people "in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."

Journalists and officials who have reviewed the Katrina disaster blamed the inaccurate reporting in large measure on the breakdown of telephone service, which prevented dissemination of accurate reports to those most in need of the information. Race may have also played a factor.

The wild rumors filled the vacuum and seemed to gain credence with each retelling — that an infant's body had been found in a trash can, that sharks from Lake Pontchartrain were swimming through the business district, that hundreds of bodies had been stacked in the Superdome basement.

"It doesn't take anything to start a rumor around here," Louisiana National Guard 2nd Lt. Lance Cagnolatti said at the height of the Superdome relief effort. "There's 20,000 people in here. Think when you were in high school. You whisper something in someone's ear. By the end of the day, everyone in school knows the rumor — and the rumor isn't the same thing it was when you started it."

Follow-up reporting has discredited reports of a 7-year-old being raped and murdered at the Superdome, roving bands of armed gang members attacking the helpless, and dozens of bodies being shoved into a freezer at the Convention Center.

Hyperbolic reporting spread through much of the media.

Fox News, a day before the major evacuation of the Superdome began, issued an "alert" as talk show host Alan Colmes reiterated reports of "robberies, rapes, carjackings, riots and murder. Violent gangs are roaming the streets at night, hidden by the cover of darkness."

The Los Angeles Times adopted a breathless tone the next day in its lead news story, reporting that National Guard troops "took positions on rooftops, scanning for snipers and armed mobs as seething crowds of refugees milled below, desperate to flee. Gunfire crackled in the distance."

The New York Times repeated some of the reports of violence and unrest, but the newspaper usually was more careful to note that the information could not be verified.

The tabloid Ottawa Sun reported unverified accounts of "a man seeking help gunned down by a National Guard soldier" and "a young man run down and then shot by a New Orleans police officer."

London's Evening Standard invoked the future-world fantasy film "Mad Max" to describe the scene and threw in a "Lord of the Flies" allusion for good measure.

Televised images and photographs affirmed the widespread devastation in one of America's most celebrated cities.

"I don't think you can overstate how big of a disaster New Orleans is," said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a Florida school for professional journalists. "But you can imprecisely state the nature of the disaster. … Then you draw attention away from the real story, the magnitude of the destruction, and you kind of undermine the media's credibility."

Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss cited telephone breakdowns as a primary cause of reporting errors, but said the fact that most evacuees were poor African Americans also played a part.

"If the dome and Convention Center had harbored large numbers of middle class white people," Amoss said, "it would not have been a fertile ground for this kind of rumor-mongering."

Some of the hesitation that journalists might have had about using the more sordid reports from the evacuation centers probably fell away when New Orleans' top officials seemed to confirm the accounts.

Nagin and Police Chief Eddie Compass appeared on "Oprah" a few days after trouble at the Superdome had peaked.

Compass told of "the little babies getting raped" at the Superdome. And Nagin made his claim about hooligans raping and killing.

State officials this week said their counts of the dead at the city's two largest evacuation points fell far short of early rumors and news reports. Ten bodies were recovered from the Superdome and four from the Convention Center, said Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

(National Guard officials put the body count at the Superdome at six, saying the other four bodies came from the area around the stadium.)

Of the 841 recorded hurricane-related deaths in Louisiana, four are identified as gunshot victims, Johannessen said. One victim was found in the Superdome but was believed to have been brought there, and one was found at the Convention Center, he added.

Relief workers said that while the media hyped criminal activity, plenty of real suffering did occur at the Katrina relief centers.

"The hurricane had just passed, you had massive trauma to the city," said Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard.

"No air conditioning, no sewage … it was not a nice place to be. All those people just in there, they were frustrated, they were hot. Out of all that chaos, all of these rumors start flying."

Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron, who headed security at the Superdome, said that for every complaint, "49 other people said, 'Thank you, God bless you.' "

The media inaccuracies had consequences in the disaster zone.

Bush, of the National Guard, said that reports of corpses at the Superdome filtered back to the facility via AM radio, undermining his struggle to keep morale up and maintain order.

"We had to convince people this was still the best place to be," Bush said. "What I saw in the Superdome was just tremendous amounts of people helping people."

But, Bush said, those stories received scant attention in newspapers or on television.
 

Tenchiro

Attention K Mart Shoppers
Jul 19, 2002
5,407
0
New England
Yeah, I remember reading an interview with the chief of police that said he had received no reports of any rapes or murders in the superdome.

The very next day he was on Oprah going off on babies being raped in the superdome...