We’ve just had two anniversaries that provoked media deluges-Hurricane Katrina and the death of another hurricane, Hurricane Diana.
Jonah Goldberg has a great piece today on the media and Katrina. He addresses the issue of why the press has never held itself accountable for the misreporting of the hurricane and its aftermath :
“During last week’s bonfire of Katrina navel-gazing, there was virtually no mention of the hyperventilating and inaccurate media reports, even though this newspaper and the Times-Picayune (among others) received accolades for debunking the hysteria less than a month after the hurricane. Yet last week’s saturation coverage contained little or no mention of the media’s malpractice. It’s as if it never happened.
“Why? I think the answer is complex, but three factors are surely involved. One, the media are often good watchdogs of government but rarely of themselves. While recycling old complaints about government is permissible, dwelling on your colleagues’ failures — or your own — just isn’t done.
“Two, the media have convinced themselves that they did a wonderful job covering Katrina. Dan Rather spoke for his colleagues when he said “everybody across the board did such a good job.” It was one of the “quintessential great moments in television news . . . right there with the Nixon-Kennedy debates, the Kennedy assassination, Watergate coverage, you name it.”
“And, lastly, journalists are invested in the dominant narratives of Katrina, and they’ll be damned if they’ll let go, particularly if it comes at the expense of their own credibility, or make Bush’s mistakes seem a little less horrendous.
“No, it would be better, and much easier, to print the legend.”
Diana, Princess of Wales, was a legend, too, of course. I found the memorial service in the Guard’s Chapel quite moving-the music was excellent, including Diana’s favorite hymn, “I Vow to Thee, My Country” and Prince Harry’s fine eulogy which was generous to both his parents.
“Behind the media glare, to us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world,” he said. “We would say that, wouldn’t we? But we miss her. What is far more important to us now, and into the future, is that we remember our mother as she would have wished to be remembered – as she was: fun-loving, generous, down-to-earth, entirely genuine.”
Well, not entirely genuine. It was a fitting memorial from a son. But Diana was a woman who manipulated the press, which was then blamed for her death in a drunk driving accident-and this was the blokes in the tabloid press, not the serious pontificators Jonah chides above. Them I defend. Unlike Katrina, though, Diana ultimately made very little difference (except in the delicious field of royal biography). She was, notes Anne Applebaum, “like a candle in the wind.”