The affect bloggers can (and, conversely, can not) have on news coverage is detailed in an article in tomorrow's New York Times. The story details how Brendan Loy became one of the first people to predict what was going to happen to New Orleans. He was also the very first person to nationally sound the alarm that the mayor of New Orleans, Ray C. Nagin, was totally failing his citizens.
Now when I had first started following the story closely two Saturdays ago, I checked with the local blogger sites in New Orleans and found no concern about what their local leadership was doing after Nagin had still refused to order a mandatory evacuation of the city.
Then on Sunday morning, when I checked in again with local NO bloggers and local NO news sites, I again saw no mention of Nagin's behavior. The I watched Nagin's TV interview and I saw how the local news media was too cowardly to confront him about his doing nothing - and I mean absolutely, nothing - to get the poor and the sick and the physically incapacitated OUT of the city when the city was projected to be either totally destroyed or completely flooded with water.
I also watched as local reporters were too afraid to contradict him when he claimed - and this was at the time the then Category 5 was projected to directly hit the city - that in just two weeks - all the water would be pumped out and all the utilities would be back!
Again, not one person anywhere in the MSM said... anything... about this lie, then or since.
I then watched as the news media again said... nothing... as Nagin claimed on TV that the flood waters after the hurricane would NOT be toxic. At that point, I belatedly started blogging non-stop (unaware of Brendan and the handful of others pre-existing efforts), asking - doesn't anyone out there realize that the mayor of New Orleans.... is crazy?
Below is the first part of the New York Times article:
ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN
One of the earliest and perhaps clearest alarms about Hurricane Katrina's potential threat to New Orleans was sounded not by the Weather Channel or a government agency but by a self-described weather nerd sitting on a couch in Indiana with a laptop computer and a remote control.
"At the risk of being alarmist, we could be 3-4 days away from an unprecedented cataclysm that could kill as many as 100,000 people in New Orleans," Brendan Loy, who is 23 and has no formal meteorological training, wrote on Aug. 26 in his blog, irishtrojan.com. "If I were in New Orleans, I would seriously consider getting the hell out of Dodge right now, just in case."
Mr. Loy's posting that Friday afternoon came three days before the hurricane struck and two days before the mayor of New Orleans, Ray C. Nagin, issued an evacuation order. Posts over the next several days, in aggregate, seem now like an eerie rewriting of the tale of Chicken Little, in which the sky does in fact fall.
In the cooperative and competitive world of blogs, Mr. Loy's has gotten some serious praise. Mickey Kaus, whose kausfiles blog is featured on Slate.com, wrote on Friday that "Loy's blog for the past week is a pretty extraordinary document," adding that "it should maybe be in the Smithsonian, if you can put a blog in the Smithsonian."
Glenn Reynolds, who blogs at instapundit.com, linked to Mr. Loy's Web site several times beginning on Aug. 26. That's the Internet equivalent of a northeaster, and all over, blogs started linking to Mr. Loy's. (Jeff Masters and Charles Fenwick, among others, also gave early and dire warnings about New Orleans on their highly trafficked weather blogs.)
According to Blog Pulse from Intelliseek, which measures blog links, Mr. Loy's was the most frequently cited nonnews source among hurricane-related blogs. On Aug. 28, it was ranked 14th among most frequently linked-to sites of all sorts.
That was more weight than Mr. Loy, who weighs 160 and is 6 foot 2, is accustomed to throwing around. A second-year law student at Notre Dame, he began blogging in 2002 - writing about football (his blog's name combines Notre Dame's football team, the Fighting Irish, with that of his college team, the Trojans of the University of Southern California), his cats, his dog, his fiancée Becky, the Red Sox, politics, "The Lord of the Rings" and weather.
"Hurricane Hugo was the first storm that I paid attention to, when I was 7 or 8," he said in a telephone interview from South Bend, Ind. "I found them fascinating and became kind of a weather nerd, watching the Weather Channel religiously." Mr. Loy joined online discussions with other hurricane watchers, and monitored the National Hurricane Center's Web site, whose satellite pictures he regularly posts and analyzes on his blog.
He called for Mayor Nagin to issue an evacuation order days before the mayor issued one, and his posts on the subject grew increasingly agitated. "It's definitely true that I am more willing to pull the trigger," he acknowledged, "because I don't have to deal with the consequences if they had had an evacuation and the storm hadn't hit. It's easy for me to sit here and say, 'Everyone leave.' "
He derives little pleasure from being proved right. "The results are so dire, and I knew they would be so dire, that I was fervently praying that I'd be wrong. There's always some vindication that comes from being right, but I would much rather have been wrong and be getting 1,000 hits a day now instead of 25,000."
Second, that it took a blogger in Indiana to cover this story.
Third, and most distressing, is the hypocisy of the media in New Orleans and elsewhere. Increasingly, the media is calling for the heads of literally everyone in sight due to the abject mishandling of every aspect of this disaster. And yet, these are also the very same people who - when the Mayor of New Orleans lied to the people of New Orleans about the impact of the storm on the city - said... nothing.
And if anyone has the slighest question about the accuracy of this claim - listen to the tapes of the TV interview with Mayor Nagin on Sunday morning. The reporters were clearly... stunned... by the Mayor's obviously false statements, but they remained... silent.
These are also the same people who - even after it was clear that the Mayor of New Orleans was not going to do anything to get the most vulnerable out of a city that was projected to be destroyed - were all - to a man and a woman - too cowardly to say that the emperor had no clothes, much less, willing to do anything constructive about it.
These are also the same people who - as the flood waters poured into the city after the levee breaches and it was clear that the new predicted water depths would soon flood hospitals and nursing homes - remained silent as the Mayor did... nothing.
And then when the Mayor continued to still do... nothing... to get anyone out of the city or out of the places most in danger, even with a twelve hour head start... even then, the local, state and national media remained... silent.
And even as hundreds of buses and trucks that could have taken people to higher ground - or out of town - were slowly flooded in the sight of their cameras.. yet again, other than a few bloggers, the media said... nothing.
There is more than enough blame to go around for what happened in New Orleans in the past week. Far more than enough. But standing at the head of the line... is the media of New Orleans, and the media in the rest of the country; the same media that is now so self-righteously calling for everyone else's head.