August 27, 2007

Katrina And The National Media: Absence Of A Soul


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As we head into this week’s commemoration-a-thon, I’m thinking about how the national press has had such a hard time dealing with Katrina’s ongoing humanitarian disaster.

Although this photo is poignant, speaking to futility and abandonment, the NYT Mag primarily devotes its Katrina second anniversary cover story to the insurance industry.  Likewise, the theme of TIME’s anniversary cover story two weeks ago (which we discussed here on August 10) dealt mostly with flood engineering and the vulnerability of marshes, swamps and barrier islands.

I suppose the absence of even one soul in either cover is supposed to convey profound loss and disappearance.  Still, I find this tendency disconcerting.  Just like the lead image from Saturday’s front page story in the LA Times (or the previous TIME cover on the catastrophe, for that matter), we hardly see a sign of life.

So, are these images effective for the absence of people, or do they reflect a disaster without a human face?

(image: Sasha Bezzubov for The New York Times. NYT Magazine.  August 26, 2007.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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