We were prepared to bunker down here in Michigan and watch CNN while empathizing with the East Coasters as Irene wreaked havoc on their lives. We felt some transitory guilt about being in a beautiful spot, enjoying perfect weather as their homes were lashed. No more. We are tired of the Irene news already. The television coverage curdled our earnest interest.
By and large, those on the East Coast are fortunate. This was not reflected in the coverage via the various Storm Centrals that 24/7 News outlets erected. The post storm tone remained as hyperbolic as the ominous pre-storm coverage. A news event had been storyboarded, and the tale would be told as planned.
The story really is that they dodged a big one out East, but the vibe for the weekend coverage channeled Armageddon. Why? The networks are headquartered on the East coast: there are more resources to cover the situation. And of course, there is the hubris that accompanies East Coast living. There is life beyond the Beltway, but it lacks the drama that is ever present in the East. And as if there weren’t enough surplus cameras and reporters to beat this story into a mini-series, the News networks have christened a new breed of journalists: i-reporters. With a flip cam or a cell phone, they can add images of flooded streets and surging tide. The coverage is overstuffed.
It is not that we do not care about the hurricane. We are sympathetic. We worried, and were comforted that there was not a massive loss of life. But when we are under 3 feet of snow, with wind blowing sideways off the lake- we are a P.S. in the life of the news cycle. When 900,000 of us were in the dark, basements flooded, rivers cresting, cars crushed by trees earlier this summer- did we get wall to wall coverage, and a presidential address? Nope. SO spare us the histrionics. We are tuning out here in the Heartland. We do not care that trains 1-7 will run in New York tomorrow. You really are broadcasting to a sliver of America. Your own sliver. I know, the most intelligent, important sliver. Sorry if we are tired of eavesdropping.
People who lived in a sports stadium for weeks in New Orleans or whose Mississippi homes were carried away by Katrina must feel really marginalized by the pre-Irene overreaction, and the post Irene micro focus. Mud on a bar floor does not really compare to the devastation experienced down South. And yet, there was an intrepid reporter, in awe that a bar would need 3 weeks to reopen. The inhumanity!
There was rain, wind, flooding, trees down, power out. It will be a mess to clean up. Insurance companies will take a hit. We get it.
Tomorrow, when the airports open, the trains run, the evacuees return to their lives, and the basements are pumped- the media might want to do a little self examination. From where I am sitting, it seems that Headline News, CNN, Fox, and MSNBC licked their lips in anticipation of Irene. They were pre-committed to a tragic hurricane. The reality, though devastating, fell short of the scenario they had ramped up for. Chagrined, they failed to adjust the scope of reportage after the fact. If it takes a hundred i-reporters, we will see every tree draped over a car.
Or we will watch HBO.
I am in the Curb Your Enthusiasm column.