Sunday, August 27, 2006

It’s All in the Delivery

Mayor Nagin:
You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair.
Federal Coordinator of Gulf Coast Rebuilding Donald Powell:
Katrina, followed by Rita one month later, were two of the most intense hurricanes ever recorded in the nation’s history. The storms had a massive physical impact on the land, affecting 90,000 square miles – an area the size of Great Britain. Over 80 percent of the city of New Orleans flooded – an area seven times the size of Manhattan. More than 1.5 million people were directly affected and more than 800,000 citizens were forced to live outside of their homes – the largest displacement of people since the great Dust Bowl migrations of the 1930s.


It's hard for some people to imagine the amount of debris that these storms caused. For some perspective: there was more debris in the three counties in Mississippi that Katrina hit alone (Harrison, Hancock, and Jackson) than all of Hurricane Andrew and the World Trade Center combined -- and that took years to clean up. Again, that's just in Mississippi. 100% of the dry debris in Mississippi has been cleaned up and 75% of the debris in Louisiana is gone. That's remarkable progress and it means the true long-term rebuilding can commence.
Nagin was not “taking a swipe” at NYC, as some headlines are saying. He was trying to make a valid point and provide perspective, as Don Powell did (more successfully, and certainly with less controversy) in the above quotes.

Unfortunately – and it seems to happen a lot – what Nagin was trying to say got lost in what he actually said. The media should know by now that Mayor Nagin is not a reliable spokesperson for the city of New Orleans. If they are not willing to translate Nagin-speak into English, then they should not interview the Mayor. Or, as was suggested at the Rising Tide Conference, they should hire a translator.

The cynic in me says that CBS and 60 Minutes knew what the Mayor was trying to say. They have Nagin-speak translators on staff. They are just manufacturing a controversy to increase viewership of their Katrina Anniversary coverage. For example, they didn’t play the report with Nagin’s remarks. They played the snippet, without the context of the entire report, and then said to get the whole story you had to tune in Sunday evening.

In the meantime, other media outlets are treating this like the Chocolate City comment, probably trying to hype their Katrina Anniversary coverage as well. And, while the media has asked Nagin the question many times, the media has never asked itself if what they are doing is hurting the rebuilding effort.

Focus, media.


mominem said...

Perhaps someone has done a comparison.

I can think of a few data points;

Land or building area devastated.
Number of homes destroyed.
Cash value of the destruction.
Federal direct aid to the City.
Federal Direct aid to the families of the dead.

Keep in mind that the Federal Government has direct responsibility for the levee failure, somthing which can't be said for 9/11.

bayoustjohndavid said...

I have to totally disagree with you. You don't rise to a 500K position if you don't know how to play office politics, i.e. watch your mouth. Heads of publicly regulated companies largely function as PR men. However real politicians (unlike office politicians) often benefit from "misspeaking"--there's not a whole lot of difference between a ninteenth century populist and some modern urban politicians or some modern Republicans. Nagin's misspeakings are about as authentic as Bush's. In my admittedly cynical opinion.