Hugh Hewitt is asking the question we posed a few days ago on the power of what the media chooses to show on its cameras. If it is safe enough for a correspondent to stand at the water’s edge in a coming Category 5 hurricane, why on earth should people evacuate? Here’s Hugh chatting with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen:
What about the semiotics of standing in the rain on the Gulf Coast, and then moving your car back a few yards as the waters get bigger. What’s the message that the mainstream media really sent to the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast ten days ago, Jay Rosen?…..
Again, I’ve got a proposition for you, because they did not do their homework, because they did not understand the levees were the threat, they ended up killing hundreds of Americans. I’m not going to say thousands, because I don’t know the number. But I know hundreds are dead, that they did not communicate the severity of this storm. Your reaction to that proposition?
People used to know how to get in out of the rain. Not anymore, apparently. For some years now, we have been treated to annoying and idiotic sights: a live report — which appears for all the world to be serious — at a newspaper stand in Queens surveying pedestrian reaction to the snow that has begun to fall, the wind testing the signs at the gas station, the now ubiquitous beach scene, etc. Who are these idiots, we used to ask. But there is a more serious question now. What is the news content that their presence on the beach actually communicates? Number one has to be that it is safe to be at the beach.
We now think that such displays have cost lives in Katrina, but that does not relieve every individual from the burden of minimal common sense.