I keep repeating it to myself: Screaming makes the headaches worse, screaming makes the headaches worse:
KURTZ: My jaw certainly dropped when I went down there a few months ago. And, you know, NBC’s Brian Williams has gone about 10 times since Katrina. But he gets emails saying, “Get off this story. We’re tired of hearing about it.”
My question to you, Gene Robinson, will New Orleans be a big story nationally a month from now, two months from now when there’s no anniversary and no Mardi Gras, or is the media attention span kind of too short?
ROBINSON: It should be a big story a couple of months from now. I’m not sure that it will be, frankly. The reason it’s difficult at this point, is that this is a difficult — it’s a hard story to get your arms around. There are failures of government at every level. You can’t just…
KURTZ: … insurance company policies…
ROBINSON: Right. You’ve got the insurance issues. You’ve got issues with federal aid. You’ve got flood control issues. The Army Corps of Engineers, what are they going to do with the levies, short term and long term, to protect New Orleans? You’ve got the mayor essentially saying let the marketplace decide what neighborhoods come back. Which, you know, is again, it’s all — it’s all difficult to get you arms around and cover in a quick snappy piece.
Look. Once and for all, editors and columnists and ombudsmen and news org spokesmen and -women and news directors and producers and such: You are not helpless. You can in fact make decisions about what to cover and what not to cover. You have, in fact, made decisions about what to cover and not to cover. So quit acting like it’s the story’s fault that you have the attention span of a goddamn gnat, that you’re tired, that your vagina hurts and that it’s all just too hard to deal with. God.
Oooh, Brian Williams gets e-mails saying people are sick of hearing about New Orleans. You know what? I have no doubt that’s true. You know what else? Brian should tell them to go suck a dick. Because I have no doubt that people in New Orleans are sick of being homeless, living in trailers, not getting paid by their insurance companies, getting fucked over by FEMA and generally ignored or blamed by the loudest voices on TV talk shows, but they don’t have the luxury of turning off the goddamn television. Brian should tell his noble e-mailers that he’ll get off the story when the story’s over, and that they’d better thank God that’s his attitude because you can bet everything you have that when it happens to them, when Buttfuck, Nebraska gets hit by some natural disaster and the Bush administration does its heckuva job again, those same e-mailing assholes will be screaming for all the attention in the world to be paid to their plight. Once and for goddamn all, government didn’t fail New Orleans after Katrina. Government failed AMERICA, and if Brian’s e-mailers don’t get that, he should deliver their puling messages straight to the junk folder and then go the fuck back to work.
If they’re sick of New Orleans being a story, well, there are in fact ways to fix that. I’ve thought for a long time that the reason people confuse coverage with occurrence is that hardly anybody in the news business stands up and says, “Look, if the thing didn’t exist we couldn’t take a picture of it so I’m sorry you’re offended, but get offended at the thing, not the image of it.” People’s anger was aimed at the government during the immediate aftermath of Katrina because they were told, clearly, with no equivocation or fake “balance” that government was failing. You can’t just sit back and expect people to know this stuff. You have to tell them. Otherwise they’ll blame you for putting the pictures on their TV.
Now, on to Mr. Robinson, who normally I like quite a lot. Oooh, the story’s hard. Look. I’m sorry, but you work for a news organization that has resources beyond the wildest dreams of most small-town papers along the Gulf. They’re covering the story. They’ve got their “arms around it,” whatever the fuck that means, as if that’s not some bullshit phrase designed to once again blame the story for the lack of coverage. The Times-Picayune no doubt has the same level of “Katrina fatigue” you big city pussies are moaning about, but guess what? They have no choice, so they keep going. They understand their mission, and they’re serving their community. Would that you served yours the same way. Ass.
it’s all — it’s all difficult to get you arms around and cover in a quick snappy piece. Well, then, don’t DO a quick snappy piece, fer chrissakes. Look, Mr. Robinson, you just named ten twelve fourteen different story ideas. GO DO THEM. Nobody’s stopping you, certainly not me. If you want help, Jesus, ask for it. If you need resources and aren’t getting them, talk about that. But if what you’re looking for is an excuse not to feel guilty about abandoning the public service aspect of your job in the face of one of the most important stories of the goddamn decade, well, you should go elsewhere, because it’s not Sunday and the people you’re abandoning with the shrug of “man, it’s so tough” are under no obligation to forgive your sins.
Stupidity, as always, brought to us by Romenesko.