News Lessons To Be Learned From The Flood

Southern Beale dissects a Washington Post editorial by Howard Kurtz regarding the lack of media attention on the Nashville flooding situation.

The good news is that the story did get out nationally (the fact that the Washington Post did this column is evidence of that). Not on the traditional national news outlets but on blogs, social media, Twitter. There were shocking photos and compelling videos and wonderful writing. And our local news media, once they figured out that the story was not in the Doppler Radar color blobs but on the ground, in real

SouthTown Flood In Dyersburg

life, did a good job, too.

The national news media seems to be saying a collective “we’re sorry,” and frankly, I don’t give a damn. Because the fact that you overlooked our story isn’t bad for us. It’s bad for you. It’s just another example of an outdated media model involving gatekeepers and a centralized hierarchy of decision makers that control the information flow which is completely at odds with the current, decentralized model taking hold among actual consumers. The Nashville flood story showed the limitations of the national news media in the internet/wireless/cellular age.

She makes several points but I want to add one thing. Now that the water has somewhat cleared all across the state, there were lapses of media attention/neglect from all over, and of course our focus was watching our friends and family in middle Tennessee while desperately seeking information for west Tennessee. Online scribes made it their mission to continue the story, to get the message out, and it came down to their knowledge of knowing which “audience” they were writing to.  From a west Tennessee standpoint, finding critical news regarding the tornadoes and flooding was extremely frustrating for us at Speak to Power, and at times, it was lonely business.

The flooding focused on the dreaded term “hyper-local” at it’s highest order. And I do believe that Internet citizen journalists (and the fantastic job that several of the news stations did in Nashville should not be overlooked because they did step in from all appearances of looking on the outside in.) But So. Beale makes the point that sadly, it wasn’t enough.

For MSM to say “Whoops. Sorry” is fine and good. But in many ways it wasn’t enough. We saw the advantages, and disadvantages of a smaller, more concentrated audience in online communication.

It’s a start, but there is a part of me that wonders if we were to have another flooding situation, or an earthquake, how would it be handled? Are the tools in place to handle another need for media attention. I don’t have any answers but I do believe it is a conversation that will continue and definitely needs to be addressed.

Betsy Phillips at the City Paper also takes on this topic as well this morning.




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