Those who read me regularly know that I always have CNN on in the background of my day. Whether folding laundry or working at the computer, I like staying informed.
So it goes without saying that I have watched every interview, every piece of footage, recorded and live, coming out of the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
And CNN, like the other major news networks, sent in their big guns, stationing them across the region as the storm approached. Of course for the usual bullshit, like reporters leaning into the rain and wind while they report - the classic look-at-how-committed-I-am-to-the-story move - and to have immediate coverage of the aftermath once the storm moved out.
And that is fine. The world needs to see what has happened in these areas and the news crews are the eyes for the world. The international community, helped by the United States, since the beginning of the United States needs to see New Orleans underwater. They need to see the devastation that harks back to the tsunami earlier this year. They need to see, so they can care and send aid THIS direction for once.
But what I just witnessed on CNN, during an interview done by highly respected journalist Anderson Cooper with Director of FEMA, Mike Brown, infuriates me and makes me question the geographical freedom and spin these reporters are enjoying.
You see, just prior to his live interview, was a piece done by a fellow correspondent in Bay St. Louis - one of the hardest hit areas on the Gulf. She had spent the day filming people who have lost everything and are desperate for some sign that the world even knows what has happened. Of course they are angry. Of course they are hungry and thirsty. Of course they are acutely aware of their own personal tragedies, not knowing how bad it is so many other places. So of course, all her interviews were spliced to include their outbursts, their accusations that the government doesn’t care, that FEMA isn’t coming fast enough.
Hell, one woman, who is currently sleeping on the porch of her brother’s house, looked into the lens and demanded a trailer for herself.
Uh, hel-lo? Your porch bedroom is a Four Seasons Resort compared to the complete displacement of so very, very many. But again, she doesn't know that and these reporters don't seem eager to lend them any perspective.
Now, Anderson has been making his way throughout the region, looking for the worst and bringing it to us live. Today, he spent time with a FEMA rescue unit in Biloxi as they went about their grim task. That, and his colleague’s piece, set up his interview with Mike Brown.
Immediately, Cooper launched into a diatribe about how aid is so slow in coming, and why isn’t FEMA already there waving their magic wand. And doesn’t Brown know how bad it is?
It was a shameful, slanted, unfair interview - worthy of the National Enquirer, The Star, not CNN, and certainly not Anderson Cooper.
But then Mike Brown ripped Cooper a new asshole and laid it all out for him, how uncalled for, sensationalistic and misrepresented the entire preceding piece and Anderson’s diatribe were. That to even intimate his people are intentionally neglecting those in need or moving slower than they are able, is reprehensible.
FEMA is mobilizing and moving as quickly as they possibly can. They are ACUTELY aware of how extensive is the devastation, how many lives hang in the balance. They are facing down a catastrophe previously unseen on American soil. That they cannot pull a trailer out of their ass and hand it to that woman is just too damned bad.
Again, I have been in their shoes. I get their desperation. But I have waited for FEMA to arrive ON AN ISLAND, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN.
There are no roads in the Pacific Ocean. We were on our own for days before our situation was even seen and understood by the outside world, much less before assistance was mobilized and arrived.
I wish to remind these people that they knew this storm was coming. They had plenty of notice and were told to get the hell out of Dodge. And many, many, many of them had the wherewithal to do so.
They. Chose. To. Stay.
So to Anderson Cooper I say, stick to balanced reporting. The situation is bad enough on its own without you spinning it to make it worse. Tell these people you meet what you do know: How bad it is everywhere. That the government does hear them, see them, and is coming to help them. But don’t you dare look into the camera again and repudiate a process you obviously don’t understand, and castigate the very people who are doing more than talking suavely into a camera every hour while looking incongruously fresh and clean.
Oh, and since you don't appear to be suffering as you travel faster than the aid, why don’t you share some of your water, food and hair gel?
After all, these people lost everything, remember? THAT'S the story.
Not your shameful search for an Edward R. Murrow award or Pulitzer prize.