Networks Flock to Hurricane, Not Convention


On the day the Republican National Convention was scheduled to convene, all the network anchors who had traveled to Denver for the Democrats were elsewhere – but this wasn’t any lack of fair and balanced coverage. It was because of Hurricane Gustav, bearing down on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast three years after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the area.

NBC, CBS and ABC all put their anchors directly in harm’s way in New Orleans, and cable news outlets also ranked Gustav above St. Paul as the day’s top story – even when news emerged that Sarah Palin’s teen unmarried daughter was pregnant, a story greeted and treated very gingerly by news organizations and politicians alike.

With little to analyze from the Republican National Convention’s first official day, two points should be made instead about the day’s hurricane coverage.

One: It’s ridiculous that so many TV News organizations, in this day and age, feel that it’s mandatory to take their anchors and plunk them outside to demonstrate the force of hurricane gusts. If they have something to report, fine – but just to buffet them about for the sake of an amusing visual is both lazy and dangerous. At times like these, Bob Dylan was right: You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Two: John King’s little interactive computer maps on CNN, used so effectively during the political primaries, were used to brilliant effect in covering Gustav. By manipulating closeup and long-range satellite views of New Orleans and the region, King not only made sense of the geography and the dangers, but even placed CNN’s various on-site reporters in context, pointing out their specific locations.

That’s valuable, and that’s news. NBC’s Ann Curry complaining that her face hurts when pelted by hurricane-force winds – that isn’t.