For those new readers of my blog who may be visiting this site after attending our Saturday Katrina panel at 4Cs–“Composed in the Wake of Disaster: (Re)Writing the Realities of New Orleans”–I’d like to post some text and links for your benefit. As I was the last panelist of four and we were Internet-less in our conference room [something I’ve started to rant about over at Dennis’s blog], I felt a bit scattered. I typically create Powerpoints, but wasn’t in the mood for that this time around. So even though I had typed up a few pages and had a plethora of examples to share, I ended up doing what I prefer, extemporizing.
Here is a more fleshed out version of what I shared on my handout:
Like Bryon Hawk [who spoke on Hurricane Katrina as a cultural media event, using the framework Jean Baudrillard sets forth in The Gulf War Did Not Take Place], I agree that there were repeated and manipulated images of Katrina that circulated at rapid speed, particularly during that week of the storm when little to no information could be verified and the media focus had to remain on those still stranded in the city, Superdome, Convention Center.
But as a New Orleans native, I had other issues with the depiction of my beloved hometown. I was skeptical when Brian Williams declared on NBC’s Today Show (August 30, 2005. 7:05 a.m. ET): “There has been a huge development overnight … the historic French Quarter, dry last night and it is now filling with water. This is water from nearby Lake Pontchartrain; the levees failed overnight.”
Not only did I not know how to begin to process this information—which levee? how much water? where would the water go?—when I watched the news later that night and saw streets in and near the Quarter bone dry, I knew that these news stories were evolving into journalistic “meta-narratives,” and I knew that from this moment on, these would no longer suffice.
Thus, my focus today is on those locals–primarily those cyberliterate and with access to technology–who had evacuated and were watching from hotel rooms or the homes of extended family members. When they could not find any information relevant to their neighborhoods, never mind their eventual return to their homes and beloved city, many went online.
[Here I referred to the chart from a Pew Internet and American Life report on getting news during the storms of 2005, and wanted to highlight how it’s likely that, once again, locals were not part of the sample population. ]
While it’s great that more and more Americans nationwide are turning to and trusting alternative news sources like blogs and discussion boards, my argument is that in the years since the storm, the only place one can truly get a real depiction or chronicle of a Katrina survivor/resident of NOLA is in the New Orleans blogosphere.
With that said, and without Internet access, I read from several blogs, highlighting the dates of the posts to prove that the Katrina narrative is still developing, with every insurance claim, abandoned house or business, death, and reiteration of why New Orleans matters!
3. ENTERTAIN: in order to meet new insurance guidelines and avoid flooding next time around, one has to raise one’s house:
If anyone has comments or questions, please leave a comment. Watch this space for a link in the coming weeks because a more theoretical look at the “writing wrong” examples like these demonstrate is now in print in the Spring 2008 issue of Reflections.