Green Room

Did Major Media Overdo Coverage of Hurricane Irene?

posted at 2:45 pm on August 28, 2011 by

Hurricane Irene has not quite left the New York City area, but you’d never know it had arrived by looking out my Manhattan window. Both vehicular and pedestrian travel is pretty normal for a Sunday.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who shut down the transportation system and mandatorily evacuated an estimated 2 million city residents, declared, “We did the right thing.” I am not a huge fan of the mayor, but this time I think he is right. There was no telling in advance what path the storm might take, nor was there any way of knowing whether power lines would go down.

As it is, there was some flooding, as expected, though fortunately not the worst-case scenario in which the Hudson River overflowed its banks, pouring torrents of brackish water down the city’s concrete canyons and into its subways.

So the question is why do some commentators seem—there is no other word for it—disappointed instead of relieved? Toby Harnden, writing in the UK newspaper The Telegraph, grumbles:

The media and the United States federal government [are] trying to live up to their own doom-laden warnings and predictions while a sizeable number of ordinary Americans just carried on as normal and even made gentle fun of all the fuss.

Harnden describes CNN’s Anderson Cooper as looking crestfallen at the news that the rain, which comprised much of the New York Irene experience, was not going to get any worse. He quotes Cooper as saying, “Wow, because this isn’t so bad. It’s an annoying rain but it isn’t even a sideways rain.”

Granted, the hurricane was not the apocalypse that the media makers were told it would be by the experts. I’m just not sure why that’s such a bad thing.

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If you don’t hype it, and it’s bad, then you get ripped.

If you hype it, and it’s not bad, then you get ripped.

But the reality is that they hyped it because they are all based in New York so it ultimately ended up being a bunch of paranoid people reporting it all.

Based on the coverage all week, you’d have though the storm was going to by like “The Day After Tomorrow” without the frozen aftermath. But whats was worse is that there was 2 minutes of “the storm will make landfall in North Carolina” and then 58 minutes of “We’re all gonna die in New York!”

Hell, New York gets storms like this multiple times a year, they just call them Nor’easters.

uknowmorethanme on August 28, 2011 at 3:06 PM

What seemed really ridiculous was Geraldo weaving in scenes from disaster movies into actual street reporting during the storm. Guess if there’s not enough really bad stuff going on, they use make believe to fill in. He has probably encountered worse weather while sailing.

Kissmygrits on August 28, 2011 at 3:28 PM

If you don’t hype it, and it’s bad, then you get ripped.

If you hype it, and it’s not bad, then you get ripped.

Well said, and a fair indictment of the media in this day and age.

Howard Portnoy on August 28, 2011 at 3:36 PM

Well said, and a fair indictment of the media in this day and age.

Howard Portnoy on August 28, 2011 at 3:36 PM

Prima fascie, that was just as true in 1776 as it is now. I wonder how many libbies actually realize that most of the gentry in colonial era America were loyalists?

gryphon202 on August 28, 2011 at 3:48 PM

It’s Bush’s fault!

/sarc

Roy Rogers on August 28, 2011 at 4:08 PM

So the question is why do some commentators seem—there is no other word for it—disappointed instead of relieved?

Because, how can Obama ‘never let a crisis go to waste’
if it turns out there’s no crisis?

mrt721 on August 28, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Aside from really liking pee jokes, Anderson is one of those disaster adrenaline junkies who have been part of TV news since Dan Rather made a name for himself with his 1961 coverage of Hurricane Carla. The hoopla post-Katrina and the 24/7/365 news cycle upped the ante even more, to the point when the worst doesn’t come to pass they look like those kids on the Ally Bank commercials who’ve had their toys taken away.

jon1979 on August 28, 2011 at 7:30 PM

Turning foxnews off. They’re still hyping this 24/7. I’m from midwest. Where was the tornado hype, midwest flooding, Texas fire hype? Was it not hyped because it wasn’t a news casters home town? Political? I’m praying for those affected but I don’t want to watch coverage of EVERY downed tree!

conmo on August 28, 2011 at 8:58 PM

but I don’t want to watch coverage of EVERY downed tree!
conmo on August 28, 2011 at 8:58 PM

I’m agree, the coverage of every downed tree or flooded street was mindless. I live about 30 miles southeast of Raleigh NC and lost interest in the televised reports even as Irene raged outside. The local stations were all wall to wall Irene without even commercial breaks. It all seemed insane.

RealityCheck4 on August 28, 2011 at 11:11 PM

We were in Vermont… They didn’t over-hype there.
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We almost got stuck up on the mountain for an indeterminable length of time. Luckily, only half of the driveway was lost (or there would have been an 8 ft deep trench to fill just t o get out)… The road at the bottom of the hill in town was made passable 24 hours after the rain stopped.
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And it was worse in some areas near where we were. As in, homes lost… we didn’t hear about any loss of life up there … so that was good.
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Jersey shore that we returned to… much more hype, way less damage.
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RalphyBoy on September 3, 2011 at 11:39 AM