Bloggers Kept Lines Open During Hurricane Katrina

A recent Washington Post editorial makes this observation: "In a society hooked on access to instant and overwhelming quantities of information, it was remarkable how much was unknown about the scope of the disaster wreaked by Katrina; the storm had simply destroyed much of the information network." Yes, electricity and phone lines were knocked out throughout the region, and much was and is unknown, but there were some sources of information that remained unfiltered and undeterred by damage to conventional communications. These sources were blogs.

Plenty of bloggers were following the storm from different parts of the country, but the ones that stick out in my mind were right in the middle of it. One such writer, Kaye Trammell, wrote in an op-ed in Saturday's Post about blogging through power outages while waiting out the storm in her Baton Rouge home. I admit, I had no idea that was even possible until I read her blog. It's got lots of useful tidbits, like this: Can't get through to a loved one in an emergency? Try sending a text message.

Posts like this one from Josh Britton really drive home just how vital these blogs were not only to the people reading them, but to those writing them as well. As the disaster-blogging art form develops, look for the blogs to be used more by local emergency management officials to disseminate important information about conditions.

An extensive listing of Katrina-related blogs is here, and plenty more can be found through the links on each others' sites.

By Emily Messner |  September 4, 2005; 4:00 PM ET  | Category:  Misc.
Previous: Where Is All the Foreign Aid for Us? | Next: Hurricane Katrina's Aftermath: Not the President's Finest Hour


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Did you know that Michael Brown, head of FEMA, may not have been qualified - see story in the Bostion Herald

Posted by: HighVizPR | September 5, 2005 11:04 AM

You're assuming Reporters & Officials actually care about information.
That investigating the truth and solving problems,
is more important than their personal ratings and polls.
It's a good thing Bloggers have stepped up to be the "watchdogs"
where once that used to be the primary role of the News Media.

What I saw in the lead up, landfall, and immediate
aftermath of Katrina, was the usual trite coverage,
with reporters trying to "out do" each other,
by standing out in ever more dangerous perches.
In effect, daring the Hurricane to hurt them.
This has become a particular game up one-upmanship
in the American media, that has taken hold,
as Hurricanes become an ever more common event.
I guess, it's easier for reporters to stand out in a storm,
than to actually investigate if "global warming" is causing them.

The first day after Katrina passed,
Reporters passed along "rumored reports of levees leaking
in various parts of the city." But did they
go and INVESTIGATE those leaks? No!
Did they check the Blogs? No!

It was easier to film trash in the streets,
wind damage to buildings, and the high watermarks,
than it was to check out these "unsubstantiated rumors".
IF the early reports about the levees had been checked out,
perhaps the leaks could have been fixed while small,
preventing the failures of levees, that ruined the city.
We'll never know. Weren't they even curious
about these "rumors"? They should have been.

US Media has to stop looking for the "easy story".
They need to actually investigate what's happening,
to apply their hearts and brains, to dig out the truth.
In short, to challenge the Status Quo.
There are signs of them doing this,
when faced with compounding misery.
But usually the underlying "outrage" is not so obvious.
I fear, catering to the Status Quo will
become the norm again--not challenging it--
once the startling images fade from view.
It's the American way: Out of sight, Out of mind.

Posted by: James Siebert | September 5, 2005 12:51 PM

Absolutely right on target!!

Posted by: Willy | September 5, 2005 02:42 PM

I heard from relatives in New York, that Condolezza Rice was seen shopping at Ferragamos in NY on Wednesday or Thursday last week. Apparently a woman accosted her in the store and asked "Have you no shame?" Later, when Sec. Rice went to see "Spamalot" people in the audience booed her. This was written in the NY Post or Daily News. Why wasn't it written or reported in the Washington Post? I think people need to know about the arrogance and disregard the Bush administration showed during this crisis.

Posted by: Michelle | September 5, 2005 11:05 PM

On September 4 the Washington Post printed a story that included information from an unnamed federal government official. One of his claims was that the Louisiana governor had not declared a state of emergency. This was part of an attack on the Louisiana state government and New Orleans city government, to deflect blame from the federal government.

Later the Post published a correction that Governor Blanco had declared a state of emergency on August 26.

I wonder whether it might be a good idea when granting anonmymity to sources, to stress that if they state things that you later find are lies, you might then publish the identity of the liar along with the correction.

An understanding like that might reduce the number of lies you get told by confidential sources.

Posted by: Thomas | September 6, 2005 04:40 AM

Mike Brown was given his job as an award for getting the president re-elected . He does not have a clue about what to do in a crisis. It is about time that the media awaken from a deep sleep and is reporting on the things that are wrong at the WH.

Posted by: DWB DDWB | September 7, 2005 11:14 PM

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