It is a sad state of affairs when I have to read down the blogroll on my personal blog to see any recent mention of the flood that just devastated Nashville. Genma Holmes, the blogger at Genma Speaks, has done yeoman’s work this week, with a blog post that not only talks about the recovery efforts in her city, but comes complete with a photo essay of the aftermath of the worst flood her city has suffered in modern times.
You can feel the emotion in Genma’s words as she details the individual hardships borne by her fellow citizens:
I met overwhelmed moms who just got out of the hospital with newborns with no diapers, formula or personal toiletries for themselves. I saw elderly folks who were bedridden with soiled diapers on for days. Your desire for dignity does not go away in the middle of a national disaster. I spoke to several soldiers in Iraq serving our country wondering if their families are being served. Men protecting us abroad were feeling helpless because they were not there for their families. The needs are endless and consuming but I believe in the goodness of people. I saw folks from every economical, racial and ethnic background bewildered, shocked, and speechless but determined to get through this tough time. We are the Volunteer State, we will recover!
So what is it, in a country that has enough capacity on its cable systems to give every disaster their own channel, that makes the Nashville flood less newsworthy than other calamities that have befallen American cities? I heard Anderson Cooper apologize last week to his audience for the scant coverage his network has given the Nashville flood, but since his interview with the city’s mayor, I would be surprised if the story of Music City’s recovery has gotten more than half an hour of airtime on CNN in prime time.
Andrew Romano of Newsweek probably comes closest to the truth in a recent article in the news magazine.
The problem for Nashville was that both the gulf oil spill and the Times Square terror attempt are like the Russian novels of this 24/7 media culture, with all the plot twists and larger themes (energy, environment, terrorism, etc.) required to fuel the blogs and cable shows for weeks on end. What's more, both stories have political hooks, which provide our increasingly politicized press (MSNBC, FOX News, blogs) with grist for the kind of arguments that further extend a story's lifespan (Did Obama respond too slowly? Should we Mirandize terrorists?). The Nashville narrative wasn't compelling enough to break the cycle, so the MSM just continued to blather on about BP and Shahzad.
As I looked at the pictures of everyday people in everyday neighborhoods in Nashville, just like those in every other major city in America, I wondered – how hard would it be for a news producer to make a compelling story out of the sight of the contents of entire households stacked in front of every house on both sides of the street as far as the eye could see? For most of us who have no direct connection to Nashville or its surrounding cities, out of site is out of mind. But this is the time, in the wake of such devastation, that Nashville's citizenry needs us the most. It is the kind of American tragedy that could make average reporters look like Pulitzer Prize winning geniuses, if they would only head down there and tell this story the way it should be told.