Neal Justin has decided the press are true heroes of Katrina. Why, because they got mad (at President Bush, of course). I guess the requirements of heroism are perfect hair, a microphone, a cameraman and a rescue effort to complain about. Apparently carping at the inevitable errors, foul-ups, and fog of confusion that is part and parcel of responding to a catastrophe is heroic. I do have a couple of questions for Mr. Justin, however.
1. How many people did the press save? Say, as compared to the Red Cross, the United States Armed Forces, the National Guard, and all of the other first responders in the Gulf Coast states hit by Katrina?
2. How well did any of the people mentioned in your column explain the process by which federal assistance is provided to states and smaller locales in the event of a natural disaster. Did they mention that the Department of Defense was able to get resources moving towards LA in half the time required to do so in 1992 for Hurricane Andrew? Did the Times-Picayune read their own stories about the poor preparedness of the city of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana before writing their open letter criticizing the feds? How often did the people Justin holds up as models report on the efforts of the US Coast Guard, rescuing people along the Gulf coast as early as the day after Katrina struck?
3. Mr. Justin, in what way is the government (which government, by the way? there is more than one level involved in the relief effort) intimidating the press? How many reporters have been put in jail for reporting on the relief effort? Does criticism of press reporting by government officials qualify as intimidation? I hope the press is sufficiently thick-skinned as to be able to accept criticism, but maybe our brave guardians of freedom find it just too intimidating. What a shame. In what way is the goverment turning the public against the press? I thought the press' declining reputation has a lot to do with lousy, sloppy, and occasionally biased reporting, not the nonexistent PSAs from Uncle Sam warning us against the evil press. Silly me.