Flipping cable channels for the latest on Hurricane Gustav, I can’t help notice a striking similarity to the run-up to Hurricane Katrina three years ago: Every single news station is reporting from the French Quarter, or the adjacent downtown region. Even Anderson Cooper, the supposed hero journalist of Katrina, remarked a bit ago that while city officials say the city is mostly evacuated, he has no way of knowing if it’s true.
Is it really too much to expect that, now that Katrina alerted the nation that parts of New Orleans exist outside the tourist districts, the media actually go report from there to see how folks are handling this new threat? Probably yes – after all, a mere six months after Katrina, the vast majority of the reporting was on how Mardi Gras had returned to normal, and never mind that the rest of the city was a disaster, and tens of thousands of people were still displaced.
I did just see one CNN correspondent – I didn’t catch his name – mention to Cooper that while the tourist areas of New Orleans are in reasonably good shape today, the outlying neighborhoods are not. Still, I haven’t seen a single piece of video footage, or even blog post, from the poorer sections of town. Let’s hope we don’t have a repeat of 2005, when the nation went to bed on Monday night assured that “the water is going down” in the French Quarter, only to later learn that at moment, the levees had been breached for more than 12 hours, and half the city – the not-ready-for-prime-time half – was already underwater.