On the second anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, film director Spike Lee and CNN special correspondent Soledad O’Brien present “Children Of The Storm” tonight on the all-news channel. The duo gave cameras to 11 New Orleans area students back in January to record their lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Spike told the kids to “just go out and shoot, tape is cheap.” Lee, of course, did the Katrina documentary When The Levees Broke. Here’s part of the column I wrote that Labor Day weekend, They Shoot News Anchors: Part II:
“For the first 120 hours after Hurricane Katrina, TV journalists were let off their leashes by their mogul owners, the result of a rare conjoining of flawless timing (summer’s biggest vacation week) and foulest tragedy (America’s worst natural disaster). All of a sudden, broadcasters narrated disturbing images of the poor, the minority, the aged, the sick and the dead, and discussed complex issues like poverty, race, class, infirmity and ecology that never make it on the air in this swift-boat / anti-gay-marriage / Michael Jackson media-sideshow era. So began a perfect storm of controversy. Contrary to the scripture so often quoted in these areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, the TV newscasters knew the truth, but the truth did not set them free. Because once the crisis point had passed, most TV journalists went back to business-as-usual, their choke chains yanked by no-longer-inattentive parent-company bosses who, fearful of fallout, decided yet again to sacrifice community need for corporate greed.”
I felt that the future held the real test of pathos vs. profit: whether the TV newscasters would spend the fresh reservoir of truth and trust they had earned with the public to start snarling at the proliferation of lies and the lying liars who tell them not just about the glacial pace of rebuilding of New Orleans but on other issues as well. Now we know that the TV journos flunked that exam, as most left the Katrina story to go about Big Media’s business as usual, choke chain intact. The only difference is that now, instead of Michael Jackson, they’re spending hours upon hours on Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.