May 9, 2010

AP Story on ‘Poor Appear Harder Hit By Flooding In Tenn.’ Disappears From Its Web Site; Why?

NashvilleFloodPhoto0510On Friday, in the course of a general complaint about the relative lack of coverage of the flooding in Nashville and much of Tennessee, the Associated Press received a deserved compliment for its coverage from Investors Business Daily, which correctly implied that AP can’t make its subscribers publish its output.

But IBD missed one item, and understandably so. On Wednesday, the AP ran an article whose purpose seemed to be either to arouse class envy at a time when people should be pulling together, or to criticize the state and federal relief effort’s priorities. That article is no longer present at AP’s main web site. Why?

The item can still be found in about 150 places as of 11 p.m. Eastern time. (That may seem like a lot, but in context it isn’t.) Once you see the tenor and tone of the coverage, you’ll understand why the wire service might have wanted to pretend it never published the coverage of reporters Sheila Burke and Travis Loller.

Unfortunately, since I didn’t do a screen grab, I’m not sure of the exact title AP used at its main site. But here are examples of headlines employed at subscribing sites, one of which is probably the one the AP’s main site also used:

  • Dubuque Telegraph Herald — “Flood Swamps the Poor”
  • Salt Lake Tribune and most others — “Flood recovery worries poorer victims in Nashville”
  • WCBS in New York — “Poor Appear Harder Hit By Flooding In Tenn.” (oddly, the window title is “Crews Search for Bodies and Waters Recede in Tennessee After Deadly Flooding”
  • Dallas Morning News — “Residents feeling slighted in flooded north Nashville”
  • Northwest Herald — “Victims feel alone in Nashville”
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch — “Flood response bypassed some”
  • Deseret News — “Flood recovery worries less-affluent victims in Nashville”
  • At several TV stations — “Nashville’s honky-tonks quieted by deadly flooding”
  • About a dozen CBS-affiliated outlets (example here) reworked the headline that appears at Google to “Dozens Killed Across South After Severe Flash Flooding” without changing the underlying report. But when one visits the actual report, the title is “Poor Appear Harder Hit By Flooding In Tenn.”
  • The Washington Examiner reworked the headline, which is consistent between Google News and the Examiner’s web site, to “Nashville’s famed music quieted by flooding.”

Here are key paragraphs from the longer version of Burke’s and Loller’s report (bolds are mine):

Raging torrents had shot furniture through walls and pushed houses into the street near Nashville’s historically black Fisk and Tennessee State universities. Only a few tents tops poked above the floodwaters on Wednesday where dozens of homeless once lived along the still-swollen banks of the Cumberland River.

As the city’s vibrant country music scene gets the attention, less affluent victims wondered Wednesday how they will recover from the deadly floods.

“Being a minority we’re the last on the list. That’s just the way it is,” said Troy Meneese, a 47-year-old custodian, as he aired out water-logged shoes, a couch and chairs in his yard in front of his brick one-story home in north Nashville.

… The flooding caused by record-breaking rains of more than 13 inches in two days sent water rushing through hundreds of homes, forcing thousands to evacuate — some by boat and canoe — affecting both rich and poor in this metropolitan area of about 1 million.

In Meneese’s neighborhood, some residents and community members said they felt neglected, especially compared to the attention they believed country music attractions and more affluent neighborhoods were receiving.

… Police conducted house-to-house searches in some parts of north Nashville on Wednesday, but some wondered if they should have come earlier.

“Search and rescue teams seem like they just got here. It’s a little late,” said Howard Jones, 47, a pastor who came to the area to see if he could help. He said the neighborhood was particularly vulnerable because many elderly residents lived there.

… Nashville’s mayor and other officials visited a relief center in the north Nashville where food, water, tetanus shots and recovery information are available. The mayor, who has identified the area as one of the hardest hit, said it was important for officials to be on the scene checking on the response effort.

Searches on key word strings in the article at AP’s main web site (all without quotes) comes up empty (“Raging Torrents”), empty (“As Nashville’s Cumberland River continued to recede Wednesday”), and empty (“some residents and community members said they felt neglected”).

There seem to be only two plausible possibilities as to why the article has disappeared at AP’s main site, neither of them complimentary:

  • The better explanation would be that the wire service was embarrassed by the bitter comments it reported. It’s perfectly understandable that people who have just lost everything might lash out and say things they would never ordinarily say; it’s another thing to opportunistically report them to create more generalized resentment and anger. But such reporting should never have occurred in the first place, and as noted in the list above, AP can’t just close Pandora’s box and pretend it never happened.
  • The worse explanation would be that comments such as those reported bear an eerie resemblance to some of the understandable but overheated rhetoric that came out of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The anger quickly got directed at President George W. Bush, even though local and state authorities were primarily responsible for poor preparedness and early lack of response. Perhaps AP higher-ups saw some potential for blowback into the Obama administration, and put the kibosh on Burke’s and Loller’s work to minimize that possibility.

Neither explanation is acceptable. What AP published is part of the historical record (the “first draft of history,” if you will), and should stay out there. The wire service has no good justification for trying to make it disappear.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

IBD Editorial: Media’s ‘Bird Obsession’ Trumps Loss of Human Life

APphotoNashvilleNapolitano0510The editorialists at Investors Business Daily are not pleased with the values on display in the relative importance given to three major stories: the deaths of 11 oil rig workers off the Gulf Coast, the oil spill that resulted from that rig’s collapse, and the historic flooding in Tennessee that has taken at least 30 lives.

Here’s the newspaper’s take:

What does it say when 11 men who perish on an exploding oil platform, or 30 poor souls who die in a 1,000-year Tennessee flood, get less coverage than two oil-soaked birds? It says news is driven from the left.

It is to the credit of the one media outlet that reported the paparazzi-like scrums of reporters trailing rescue workers as they tried to clean off one oil-soaked gannet caught in the oil spill off Louisiana waters after a rig exploded in the Gulf on April 20. Not only did the U.S. and European media obsess breathlessly about the bird, and later about a brown pelican that followed, they seemed to be panting for more.

That’s because birds are convenient tools for driving the radical green agenda to halt all oil drilling. TV media and the national papers pounded the bird story because it served a political purpose.

… A look at the Los Angeles Times’ oil spill coverage, for one, shows birds featured daily in its blog and paper while the 11 oil platform workers have barely registered. On the blog, the news of the deaths wasn’t acknowledged until May 5 …

… The bird obsession looks even worse when one looks north to the flooding that’s engulfed two-thirds of Tennessee and its neighbors in a natural environmental disaster.

… The Associated Press has done some excellent team coverage of these events, but it hasn’t been featured much in national news, nor in major newspapers.

News searches done at about 11:00 a.m Eastern Time reveal the following:

  • A Google News search on “Nashville flood” (not in quotes) comes back with “about 6,780 results.”
  • A Google News search on “gulf oil spill” (not in quotes) comes back with “about 17,400 results,” or about 2.5 times as many.
  • A seven-day search at the IBD-complimented Associated Press’s main site on “Nashville flood” (not in quotes) returns 11 stories (with one interesting omission, which I’ll get to this evening).
  • A seven-day AP search on “gulf oil spill” (not in quotes) returns 116 stories. Only a few of them are unrelated.

I’d say IBD’s contentions are pretty solid, and their explanations a great deal more credible than the one offered by Newsweek’s Andrew Romano as noted Friday by NewsBuster colleague Noel Sheppard.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Detroit Free Press Copy Editor/Blogger Vandalizes New Bridge

DetroitBridgeVandalizedHeadline0505This one will not be filed under “Mother’s Day Role-Modeling Behavior.”

In this story, it’s hard to figure out what’s more outrageous: The willful defacement of property — in this case, a brand-new $5 million pedestrian bridge by an alleged adult in her mid-40s who is the mother of a teenaged son — or the near non-reaction to wanton vandalism perpetrated in broad daylight by her and others on what is supposed to be a source of pride in Detroit.

That’s even before getting to the news that one of the vandals, Oneita Jackson, is a copy editor at the Detroit Free Press who has her own Freep blog called “O Street.”

On March 21, Ms. Jackson, from her establishment media perch, admonished readers to “Agree or Disagree, Just Be Civil.” You can’t make this stuff up.

Here’s part of the story at the Detroit News (bolds are mine; HT the BlogProf via Instapundit; video is at the link; the bridge opened on Wednesday, May 5):

Vandals mar new pedestrian bridge in Detroit
$5M pedestrian link in Mexicantown open for less than one day

Less than a day after it opened, the Mexicantown Bagley Avenue Pedestrian Bridge was vandalized, Michigan Department of Transportation officials said.

… In fact, an MDOT employee’s video camera caught one woman as she used a colored pen to scrawl on a bench in the middle of the 400-foot-long bridge.

“Yes, it was me,” said Oneita Jackson, a copy editor at the Detroit Free Press and author of Sunday’s “O Street” blog.

“I did it. If you see a person with a green pen … dressed in black slacks and a red top, that’s me. I was excited about the event and wanted to put my name on it.”

Jackson eventually put away the marker and said “Oh, I guess I shouldn’t be doing this,” the tape showed. As a blogger, she has written about her efforts as a mom to raise her 16-year-old son and encourage citizens to be more patient and civil.

… A bridge engineer also caught three young women in the act of vandalism early Thursday afternoon, said MDOT chief engineer Victor Judnic.

“They were carving up the wooden bench,” Judnic said.

Judnic said MDOT had no intention to take legal action against the vandals.

“We don’t do that,” Judnic said.

Well sir, as long as you “don’t do that,” don’t be surprised if the vandalism continues.

Civilization circles the drain, and those who could and should be defending it just stand by.

As to Ms. Jackson, on this Mother’s Day I would suggest that she refer back to a quote in her March 6 blog post (“Hey Detroit, Pay Attention to Newark”), wherein a high school principal reacts to the shooting of a student there:

“What kind of sickness have you learned? This is not normal. I want you to know it’s not normal.”

In case you missed it, and you must have, ma’am, it’s also not “normal” for a mid-40s adult in a responsible position in the community to want to “put my name” on someone else’s property and deface it.

Ms. Jackson should be fearing for her job. After her Saturday morning apology, which seems mostly sincere, my guess is that she’s not. Her observation that her handiwork is gone (“Wednesday’s rain probably washed it away”) will probably save her.

Instapundit makes a media-related point: “If she were a Tea Partier, it would be a sign of incipient fascism or something.” And her employer might have relieved her of her duties by now.

I’d better stop right here. Heaven forbid that I write something Ms. Jackson might characterize as “uncivil.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.