Nashville flooding...does the media or the White House care?

Christa - posted on 05/13/2010 ( 13 moms have responded )




Since it came up in our Morgan Freeman thread, I found it ironic that I came across this article today. I want to point out it is written by a black man. Thoughts??

"Barack Obama doesn't care about white people!"

No, country star Taylor Swift didn't say that about the president. Nor did any of the entertainers who performed on a telethon to raise money for victims of the historic floods ravaging parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. None accused the Obama administration of indifference or lack of attentiveness to these floods.

Swift, who contributed $500,000, was one of many stars who appeared on this fundraiser put on by the Nashville NBC affiliate, WSMV, and carried by other Tennessee stations.

In 2005, a Hurricane Katrina relief telethon was carried live on CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC and more than 25 other channels. A separate telethon was broadcast on MTV, VH1 and CMT. During a Katrina fundraiser, rapper Kayne West accused President George W. Bush of indifference to the plight of those suffering. West said, "George W. Bush doesn't care about black people."

Hurricane Katrina was catastrophic. It caused over 1,500 deaths, with property damage estimated at near $100 billion and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. The failures of local and state responders, the widely criticized federal response and subsequent finger pointing made a tragically newsworthy story even more so.

And, at the moment, there is no shortage of significant news. Major stories include the naturalized American Muslim terrorist who admitted placing a car bomb in Times Square. An underwater oil rig erupted in the Gulf of Mississippi, creating the largest domestic oil spill since the Exxon Valdez. Arizona passed a controversial anti-illegal alien law that critics claim "legalizes racial profiling." Greece faces a financial collapse.

But has the traditional media devoted the time and attention warranted by the historic floods?

"We have been astonished by the lack of national coverage of this disaster," Elden Hale, general manager of Nashville's WSMV, told me. He acknowledged that the story competed with the Times Square terrorist and the Gulf oil spill. He said, "But still...."

How big a deal are these floods?

Hale said his area received 15 inches of rain in two days, a phenomenon of "biblical proportions." People, he said, still haven't grasped the dimensions of this disaster. The rainfalls are the highest since records have been kept. The resulting floods have been described as the greatest tragedy to hit the area since the Civil War. So far, 30 people are listed dead, the count expected to grow as floods recede and bodies are recovered. "Rivers have been created where none existed before," Hale said, "and people who've lost homes didn't carry flood insurance because these areas never flooded before."

Why haven't the floods gotten more attention?

"I don't want to get into that," Hale said, "but you and I both know they care more about the two coasts than they do Middle America." Did NBC network express any interest in airing the telethon? "No," Hale said, "but in fairness I didn't offer it to them. We intended for it to be a local affair."

As to the lack of media interest, a Newsweek senior writer tried to explain. Unlike the Times Square and oil rig stories, he wrote, the floods lacked "plot twists," a "political hook," and the "Nashville narrative wasn't compelling enough to break the cycle."

No plot twists? No political hook? Not compelling enough?

People killed. Extensive property damage. Worst rainfall in recorded history. Cultural and historic places flooded, like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the legendary Grand Ole Opry. None of that cuts it?

In his piece "We Are Nashville," Tennesee writer Patten Fuqua said: "Parts of Nashville that could never even conceivably be underwater were underwater. Some of them still are. Opry Mills and the Opryland Hotel are, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. People died sitting in standstill traffic on the Interstate. We saw boats going down West End. And, of course, we all saw the surreal image of the portable building from Lighthouse Christian floating into traffic and being destroyed when cars were knocked into it. I'm still having trouble comprehending all of it."

Consider some alternate explanations for the media's comparative lack of interest:

- Those affected, residents and officials, didn't blame others. WSMV general manager Hale praised the spirit of Tennessee. His station, organizers and entertainers came together with two days' notice. Quoting one of his news anchors, Hale said, "'Volunteerism is in our DNA.' When the Red Cross came in they were surprised because so much had already been done."

- The media's beloved Obama failed to carry Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. Those states, alien (if not enemy) territory, are simply of minor importance. It's just hard to feel those folks' pain.

- One Bush critic argued that the president didn't care about New Orleans because it is "black" and "sexy." Perhaps the media's indifference to Nashville is because that city is "only" 25 percent black, and therefore "white and redneck."

- Non-Obama voting, self-reliant "Hee-Haw'ers" who aren't blaming somebody for their troubles just don't make for big news.

Where's the race card when you need it?


Rosie - posted on 05/13/2010




first off i would like to say that i love taylor swift, her heart is very generous for such a young girl. she contributed much of her own money to my community in 2008 when we had flooding on the same tragic level. i live in cedar rapids iowa, the hardest hit by the flood in 2008, and i related greatly to this story.

i don't think that the president has anything to do with there not being enough coverage on the flood in tennesse, or iowa for that matter. bush was president when we were flooded and i think things went ok. the problem is that now STILL, 2 years later we havn't helped the people of cedar rapids recover. sure businesses, and museums, and such are almost all back, but there are houses upon houses upon houses that are out there abandoned, people living in less than desireable conditions, and then on top of that the economy crashes right afterward. the PEOPLE of cedar rapids still need help, and nobody seems to know or care about us.

i think it's the medias fault. we find death, and rioting much more interesting as a society, and well, only 1 person died here, and nobody rioted, so no big story, no attention for iowa. i can only attribute the lack of media attention in tennessee to the same. i know more people have died as a result of the flooding in tennessee than did in iowa, there was actually a young man from our area that went to nashville in hopes of making it big in the music scene, who died in the floodwaters there. but no big deaths, no rioting=no good news story. sad but true.

Rosie - posted on 05/14/2010




not to discredit anybodys info, but the flooding in iowa (not sure about tennessee, but it seems like it's on the same level) ranks among the most costliest natural disasters in this country behind hurricaine katrina. people simply don't seem to get that tennessee is likely to be up there as well. and people think that because there's less media coverage because we weren't rioting or dying and that just doesn't make a good story. it's the media all the way, not that it wasn't big enough.

Sharon - posted on 05/13/2010




Well Tennesees' bad news has creeped as far out as Arizona.

No death is less tragic than another but lets face it, Haiti this ain't, nor is it another Katrina.

These deaths were relatively swift and direct an unlike the mining disasters, which may have been swift or not. the uncertainty was horrifying. Was your husband/son/father dead or dying slowly and agonizingly, one poisoned breath at a time, lingering over days or hours?

Everyone deserves help. Everyone who dies should be known and their deaths should matter. locally or globally. we all care.

Sarah - posted on 05/14/2010




Ok, so maybe i'm reading it wrong, or missing the point, but they are getting help right??
People aren't stuck there with no aid coming to them.
If that were the case, then yeah, i'd be pissed off!
To my mind though, if something like that happened where i live (and we have had some floods, we live by the "sea") i wouldn't really give a toss how much media coverage we were getting, so long as someone turned up in a boat and rescued me! So long as there were help there to sort things out afterwards etc.

It SHOULD be newsworthy, but i guess in a country as HUGE as America, there's a lot going on, not every thing can be reported to everyone. :)

Lindsay - posted on 05/13/2010




I have honestly been waiting for national coverage of this since this happened. It's been all over our local news but since I'm in Kentucky, that's to be expected since they are our neighbors. From a personal standpoint, there has been a lot of help from neighboring states stepping up to help Nashville out but not so much from the government. My cousin, her husband and 2 kids have recently moved up here from Nashville. They were lucky they weren't still living down there but unfortunately, their house that they built in Nashville was still for sale. It was not in a flood zone and had water sitting nearly 5 feet on the first floor. They talked to their neighbors that had to be rescued in jon boats and on sea doos. The entire neighborhood pretty much has to be demolished and rebuilt. No one had flood insurance. Even through the state of emergency of this, what help will they recieve? Nothing. For my cousin and her family, that means they will have to eat $400,000. That's the amount of the house that is still owed and they will still be paying after it's torn down. These people need help...

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Sara - posted on 05/14/2010




I guess on the scale of disaster porn, Tennessee doesn't rank very high. Personally, I think it's probably a matter of other things going on in the world that are garnering more attention, like that oil well in the gulf...THAT is a disaster of biblical proportions. That will effect the lives and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people. Not that I don't feel for Nashville, because i do. But let's face it, Nashville is a pretty rich city with resources, they're going to work it out and get the help they need. Comparing it to Katrina I think is a little bit of overkill. Katrina was a massive failure of communication among emergency organizations. Nashville is not even close to the same thing.

Jodi - posted on 05/14/2010




Well, just for the record, we heard about it in Australia when it happened......

[deleted account]

To some extent I agree with what Laura and some others are saying. Some terrible disasters have happened in the world that have claimed 1000+ lives so the media is not too concerned with the catastrophe side of it.

Also some people in the UK have deal with this on a yearly basis. I remember when people in Gloucester had no drinking water. I hate to say this, but it's no worse than that in Tennessee.

I can understand what people are saying and Nashville is not a bad place if you have to be homeless. People here are thankful that it wasn't as bad as the big natural disasters on the news.

Isobel - posted on 05/13/2010




I am terribly sorry for the people in Tennessee and all that they have lost, but to compare this disaster to Katrina is a little unrealistic.

First of all, govt aid is there.

Second, Katrina resulted in 1300 deaths, I believe the count in Tennessee is 36 so far?

Third, Media coverage...aren't you a little catastrophed out? These days a disaster needs to kill at least a thousand people to be worth looking at, it feels like it's been one after the other ever since the tsunami, they seem to be coming one after the other these's kinda creeping me out to tell you the truth :(

Rosie - posted on 05/13/2010




coming from this 2 years ago and things still aren't going well, i suggest to the people who are on here from tennesee and areas around that were affected, to learn from cedar rapids, ia. mistakes. sure we handled things great, in the beginning, but there's still no help for the people. it seems like all the governments money is going to businesses, and not people. just like in tennesse, nobody had flood insurance, why would you if you lived in a 500 year flood zone? these people were nowhere near the river and their homes get flooded and now they have no help to get on their feet again. seriously, learn from what we are doing wrong and try something different, i don't know what that may be, but it's crazy here still.

[deleted account]

I live just outside Nashville with a rain damaged roof. Some of my neighbours have lost everything they own. Some are living in shelters. I don't really know the answer as to why the media doesn't care. To be honest I'm surprised that it even made it's way onto CoM. I love the fact that most of the redneck types here don't care that outsiders don't care. lol

I'm originally from an area of England where flooding is a way of life and people survive and get through it in a cheerful way. The people of Nashville are responding exactly the same way. People here are kind and helpful anyway with or without the floods. I'm so glad that we live here and not anywhere else in America. These floods have shown me that. I thank God for making Middle Tennessee and it's people.

ME - posted on 05/13/2010




Every thinking person in this country was offended by what Kanye West said...the problem is that affluent people do not understand what happened in New Orleans because they don't know what it is to have a complete lack of resources, as many people in the 9th ward did. Of course there should be more coverage of what is happening in TN. That, however, has nothing to do with our president. Of course the people of the Nashville area deserve all of the help and attention that they need Pres. Obama has offered them all the help they need. He's made televised addresses, and fema is is the red cross (i have family there; the hill behind their home washed into the back of their house, and they were stuck there for two days, but otherwise they are fine...) I guess i don't understand!

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