Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Eye Of Irene

Fox News has been showing 24/7 wall to wall coverage of Hurricane Irene.  Is this a little excessive?  Yes, hurricanes are serious business; but, it seems to me that all this over-coverage just freaks people out.  Is that the point?  Freak people out so they pay attention and "get the hell off the beach"?  Maybe.

The media doesn't really need imminent threat of landfall to go berserk over a hurricane, either.  Around here, at least, once a tropical depression spins off the coast of Africa they are all over it, scaring the crap out of anyone who might potentially be in the path of any of a dozen possible tracks.  It's the Katrina Syndrome.  These frenzied reports, especially as the storm/depression/hurricane gets closer to (any) landmass, often include shots of the flooded streets of New Orleans. 

It's as if every time there is a storm now, we're all expecting to end up on our roofs or in the attic waiting for a rescue chopper.  (Don't forget to put an axe in your attic!)

Never mind that what got New Orleans was the failure of the poorly constructed levees and that the city is a bowl under sea level.  A good thunderstorm could have done almost the same thing.

The media whips people up into such a frenzy that they all run down to Home Depot for generators and WalMart for all the bottled water they can find.  Target sells out of batteries in two hours.  Why is this necessary?  Why don't people prepare ahead of the season?  Plan ahead and get your batteries, flashlights and bottled water a long time before that storm even develops.  If nothing ever happens, hey, at least you were ready.

In 1954 E.B. White published an essay entitled "The Eye of Edna" about a hurricane that threatened his Maine home.  It's a beautifully written anecdotal piece about how the media whips everyone into a frenzy (and this was well before 24/7 cable coverage!).    He says, "I heard about Edna during the morning of Friday, September 10th, some thirty-six hours before Edna arrived, and my reaction was normal.  I simply buttoned up the joint and sat down to wait." 

They they turned on the radio, where hundreds of miles away the news reports became increasingly frantic.  He says, "It became evident to me after a few fast rounds with the radio that the broadcasters had opened up on Edna awfully far in advance, before she had come out of her corner, and were spending themselves at a reckless rate." 

What would White think about today's coverage? 

Eventually he takes refuge from "the storm" on the radio by going outside where things are quite calm and normal.    By the time the storm finally got to his place, it had passed by the broadcasters who had by then gone on to normal programming. 

Not to make light of hurricanes.  As I said, they're serious and the tornadoes they spawn and the flooding they cause are nothing to scoff at.  But how many shots do we need of some reporter getting bandied about in the wind on a beach with pounding surf behind him?   How many times in 30 minutes do I need to see the satellite loop?  This guy in on television right now is talking about "high wind gusts" and "metal debris," as if we don't know to expect this sort of thing with a hurricane.

All in all, I think 24/7 coverage is too much.  Calm, responsible reporting on the hour or half hour is fine.  Keep us informed.  But don't whip us into a frenzy.


DCE said...

What all of this really does is allow the electronic media outlets to use all of those "Special Report" or "Storm Watch Coverage" graphics and the ominous sounding lead-in music.

They would use the teaser music and graphics from the Bill Murray movie "Scrooged" if they thought they could get away with it. Anything to scare the heck out of the public and garner more viewership.

Tony said...

Solution: Kill your TV (or simply walk away from it).

Alden said...

Ugh your telling me! Then my entire Facebook feed is Irene, Irene, Irene! They evacuated half of base housing... of course it was MY side. We have NEVER had flooding in my area.. So I went less than a 1/4 of a mile away to a friends house... on base... who HAS had flooding! Such a pain.. And of course.. no damage to my home with the exception of Ryleis swing set falling over.

Anonymous said...

Except for the dilwad who died because he wanted to surf in an ocean being churned by a hurricane, I honestly feel sorry for those who died during the storm. But after Katrina and Rita, Irene was hardly newsworthy.