Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 18, 2006

Report analyzes Katrina media coverage

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Christian Beckner on August 18, 2006

The C-Span website links today to an interesting new report from the Partnership for Public Service that analyzes the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath over the last twelve months:

Covering Katrina: Trends in Katrina Media Coverage Initial Analysis from the Top Ten National Newspapers and Ten Gulf Coast Newspapers

The three key findings from the report, none of which are particularly surprising:

— Katrina Received 10x the Coverage as Florida Hurricanes. The top ten papers in the country published 13,901 articles mentioning Hurricane Katrina in the eleven months following the storm. The ten selected Gulf Coast papers published 23,348 articles during that time. By comparison, all four of the hurricanes that struck Florida in 2004 drew less than 10% of coverage of Katrina in both the top ten and the Gulf Coast newspapers.
— Stories Were More Likely to Connect FEMA, Government with Fraud, Waste. ‘Fraud’ and ‘waste’ are more than twice as likely to appear in articles that mention FEMA as in those that do not. About 9% of the stories in the top ten papers and 11% of the stories in the Gulf Coast papers that mention FEMA also mention waste or fraud.
— Poverty and Lessons Learned Received Little Coverage. Poverty coverage was initially very limited and even less sustained than overall coverage. By November 2005, less than 4% of national coverage and less than 2% of Gulf Coast coverage mentioned poverty. Discussion of issues related to governmental reform and lessons learned from the event were even less a part of the stories. Overall, less than 1% of the Katrina stories in top ten or Gulf Coast newspapers mentioned ‘lessons learned’.

And the report concludes by suggesting the need for more stories on the following topics:

These topics include issues such as improving human capital management, emphasizing better collaboration and coordination between government agencies and among government and non-government organizations during a disaster, and focusing on long-term prevention and mitigation strategies that reduce the likelihood of another disaster like Katrina.

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