By: Greg Mitchell
As we have done for the past week, we will provide updates all day on media reports from the disaster zone, mainly from local newspapers, blogs and readers’ forums, latest news on top.
11:30 PM ET. From Keith Olbermann’s commentary on his MSNBC show tonight:
“These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn’t even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans ? even though the government had heard all the ‘chatter’ from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn’t quite discern… a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection ? or at least amelioration ? against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological. It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.”
10:55 PM ET. Just up at the Washington Post, by Howard Kurtz, on the critical tone of much of TV coverage:
“This kind of activist stance, which would have drawn flak had it come from American reporters in Iraq, seemed utterly appropriate when applied to the yawning gap between mounting casualties and reassuring rhetoric. For once, reporters were acting like concerned citizens, not passive observers. And they were letting their emotions show, whether it was ABC’s Robin Roberts choking up while recalling a visit to her mother on the Gulf Coast or CNN’s Jeanne Meserve crying as she described the dead and injured she had seen.
“Maybe, just maybe, journalism needs to bring more passion to the table — and not just when cable shows are obsessing on the latest missing white woman.”
7:45 PM ET. From CNN’s web site, where correspondents post blog-like items. This is from CNN’s Drew Griffin in New Orleans:
“I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a ‘ticket.’ Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn’t believe these people were afraid they’d be charged for a rescue.”
7:20 PM ET. Celebrities stop in at the Astrodome, even as Sean Penn remains in New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune:
“A star-struck Phyllicia Winchester stood behind the barricades with her family and watched Oprah Winfrey and the talk show host?s entourage leave the Reliant Astrodome Monday afternoon.
“A few minutes before, the 16-year-old spied Jada Pinkett Smith. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had just left the building. And at one point Monday, she was close enough to touch U.S. Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, who was in town visiting storm survivors with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“She hadn?t seen Macy Gray but heard the singer was on the grounds volunteering, and Dr. Phil held an impromptu talk show at the dome Sunday, she said.”
5:55 PM ET. An AP account of President Bush’s visit to a relief center in Louisiana:
“During his stop at Bethany, several people ran up to meet Bush as he and first lady Laura Bush wandered around the room. But just as many hung back and just looked on. ‘I’m not star-struck. I need answers,’ said Mildred Brown, who has been there since Tuesday with her husband, mother-in-law and cousin. “I’m not interested in handshaking. I’m not interested in photo ops. This is going to take a lot of money.'”
5:40 PM ET. From the blog of WWL-TV in New Orleans:
Ben Morris, Slidell mayor: “We are still hampered by some of the most stupid, idiotic regulations by FEMA. They have turned away generators, we’ve heard that they’ve gone around seizing equipment from our contractors. If they do so, they’d better be armed because I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them deprive our citizens. I’m pissed off, and tired of this horse$#@@.”
5:10 PM ET. From this week’s Time magazine cover story by Matthew Cooper, no less. The story is titled “Dipping His Toe Into Disaster,” with the deck, “Slow, awkward and at times tone-deaf, Bush mishandled the storm’s first days. Now he has his own recovery problem.” One excerpt:
“It isn’t easy picking George Bush’s worst moment last week. Was it his first go at addressing the crisis Wednesday, when he came across as cool to the point of uncaring? Was it when he said that he didn’t “think anybody expected” the New Orleans levees to give way, though that very possibility had been forecast for years? Was it when he arrived in Mobile, Ala., a full four days after the storm made landfall, and praised his hapless Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director, Michael D. Brown, whose disaster credentials seemed to consist of once being the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association?”
3:45 PM ET. From The Advocate in Baton Rouge.
“Some 400-500 of 1641 New Orleans City Policemen are unaccounted for, according to NOPD Chief Warren Riley in a press conference that was under way at 11:30 a.m. Riley is also asking that people do not come back into the city at this point. Riley added there are no jobs, no power, no reasons to come back in.”
2:40 PM ET. From NBC anchor Brian Williams’ blog at MSNC today:
“In a strange way, the most outrageous news pictures of this day may be those of progress: The palettes of food and water that have just been dropped at selected landing zones in the downtown area of New Orleans. It’s an outrage because all of those elements existed before people died for lack of them: There was water, there was food, and there were choppers to drop both. Why no one was able to combine them in an air drop is a cruel and criminal mystery of this dark chapter in our recent history.
“The words ‘failure of imagination’ come to mind. The concept of an air drop of supplies was one we apparently introduced to the director of FEMA during a live interview on Nightly News on Thursday evening. He responded by saying that he’d been unaware of the thousands gathered at the Convention Center. Later that evening an incredulous Ted Koppel on ABC was left with no choice but to ask if the FEMA director was watching the same television coverage as the rest of the nation.”
1:05 PM ET. The angry Times-Picayune “open letter” to the president on Sunday–which E&P was first to reprint and place at the top of this site yesterday morning–has drawn wide attention. It’s been republished by the Seattle Times and at the CNN site, read in full on MSNBC, and quoted in hundreds of other newspapers. Editor Jim Amoss, in an interview, has explained why they wrote it: “We needed to address the president directly….We felt that this is ultimately his failure, and it is a colossal one that may have cost lives, and certainly much physical damage to our community.” (See full story elsewhere on our site.)
12:35 PM ET. A Times-Picayune forum reveals that cult rock musician Alex (“The Letter”) Chilton has been found safe. Latest entry there:
–Bywater Needs Patrols!
“Arson fires have been set in the Bywater and criminals are still in control of the streets at night. Please do something to get the troops out of the cbd/warehouse area and down to the bywater, especially at night.
“People there don’t need to be evacuated, they need the criminals to be controlled. Arson is a particularly dangerous threat to our neighborhood and to the whole city.”
12:10 AM ET. From the Web site of the invaluable New Orleans TV station WWL, from an interview with new folk hero Aaron Broussard, president of hardhit Jefferson Parish. He received wide attention and applause Sunday when he cited the callous federal response to the disaster last week and the drowning of an associate’s other. Apparently he has not mellowed today. Here are the latest entries from the newspaper’s blog:
–“Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard: ‘I’m not surprised at what the feds say, they’re covering their butts. They’re keeping the body counts down because they don’t want to horrify the nation. It’s worse than Iraq, worse than 9-11. They just don’t want to know how many were murdered by bureaucracy.’
–“Broussard: ‘I know what the body count is so far, but I won’t horrify the nation.'”
11:35 AM ET. From The New York Times’ report on how the Times-Picayune has maintained operations, producing several print editons and reached 30 million page views on its site on Friday alone (previous weekly average–5 million). One reporter, who was sent to cover the disaster in Mississippi, remains missing today.
“Meanwhile, staff members, straining to report the disaster, were realizing the extent of the damage to their own homes. More than 30 percent of the newspaper staff members had lost their homes, one employee estimated.
“Jon Donley, the editor of Nola.com, worked for two days without hearing from his adult daughter before learning she was safe. ‘He worked posting all that on the Internet, not knowing whether his daughter was alive or not,’ Mr. O’Byrne said.
“Joe Graham, a photo technician, had still not heard from his wife and son by Friday afternoon. Their house was in eastern New Orleans, an area that had some of the worst flooding. On Saturday afternoon, Terry Baquet, the Page 1 editor, was almost giddy as he reported that Mr. Graham’s family had been found safe.”