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September 12, 2005

"expert" voices

I'm quoted in a recent story on Yahoo News (provided by Agence France Presse), entitled, "Katrina: US TV swings from deference to outrage towards government." The lead is, "In the emotional aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, US television's often deferential treatment of government officials has been replaced by fiercely combative interviews and scathing commentary." Some examples follow, and then I am quoted near the end:

Media expert* Peter Levine, of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, said the shift in stance of American television was a return to normal following four years of toeing the government line following the September 11 attacks.

"After 9/11 those who publicly dissented from support of the president and the government were rounded on from all sides," he told AFP.

"The political calculation of (opposition) Democratic politicans was that it was best to support the president and so no one wanted to be seen dissenting, giving the media little to base any criticism on," he said.

But with local officials, including Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin openly slamming the government response to the New Orleans catastrophe, usually reserved media feel free to do the same, he said.

Added to that, the horror played out on live television belied the government's claims that its preparations for the storm and subsequent rescue effort had been sufficient.

"(Television stations) have people on the ground and are seeing a huge difference between what they are being told by officials and what they are actually seeing," Levine said.

None of this is profound or original, but it exemplifies the phenomenon I meant to describe. The reporter probably had the thoughts that he attributed to me before I said them. But he could not simply write those ideas down in his own words, because that would be editorializing, interpreting, or analyzing, and he couldn't do that as a reporter. His assignment was to record facts, such as what a "media expert" had said. So he called around until he found someone who told him something that he wanted to say himself, and then he quoted that person--in this case, me.

Between Sept. 11, 2001 and the Iraq invasion, relatively few of the people whom reporters quote were willing to say anything bad about US foreign policy, and that is why critical perspectives were so rare.

*My media "expertise" comes solely from regular reading of The New York Times, including the news, arts, op-ed, NY region, and business sections and the obituaries, but rarely the sports and never the new "style" section, which I condemn unequivocally.

Posted by peterlevine at September 12, 2005 07:14 AM


it would have been so much cooler if you had actually said "openly slamming". *grins* and what have you got against the "style" section? not that i read the NYT...South China Morning Post, every damn day.

Posted by: mwallae1 [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 22, 2005 02:31 AM

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