Read More by Jeff Crouere, Bayoubuzz
The Mayor called for an evacuation of low lying areas and placed a 7 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew on the city. The curfew destroyed business on a Saturday night for scores of New Orleans restaurants, bars, and music clubs. It also forced the cancellation of weddings, parties, concerts and many other activities that were planned for Saturday night. In fact, New Orleans became a ghost town during the curfew as the residents hunkered down to survive the “hazardous” rains and winds of Hurricane Nate.
Of course, Hurricane Nate was a total bust and eventually made landfall over 90 miles to the east of New Orleans. The west side of the storm was completely dry and wind free. In fact, the gusts were laughably non-existent. Even in Biloxi and Mobile, the damage from Hurricane Nate was minimal.
The only local death reported from Hurricane Nate was a 70-year-old woman who died from a heart attack, possibly caused by the stress of evacuating.
Hurricane Nate in New Orleans--Reporters sent to the Lakefront, Plaquemines Parish, Bay St. Louis and Slidell
The local television stations were also consumed by Hurricane Nate coverage. All of the stations interrupted local programming to report non-stop on the “dangerous” storm conditions. Reporters were sent to the Lakefront, Plaquemines Parish, Bay St. Louis and Slidell to report on the “treacherous” circumstances. Of course, all that was discovered was negligible rain, weak wind gusts and a stray kitten.
The TV stations also spent an undue amount of valuable broadcast time interviewing local politicians and emergency officials. In each report, anchors would excitedly ask about local conditions and preparations. Of course, there was nothing to report, because nothing was happening. It was the same report from all of these special guests, as they would emphasize their extensive arrangements for a storm that was a non-event. To say it was boring television would be the understatement of the century.
The biggest losers were the local businesses who suffered from cancellations on Saturday night. Also, the media and the Mayor lost an enormous amount of credibility. They jointly participated in the extreme publicizing of Hurricane Nate causing local residents tremendous anxiety.
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After nothing resulted, people will be less likely to listen the next time a storm approaches. There is a risk that by over-hyping a weak storm, the Mayor and local media will have a trustworthiness problem with angry residents if a dangerous hurricane does threaten in the future.
Sensationalism does not replace good reporting or good leadership. Residents should be given truthful information and not used as pawns for higher media and voter approval ratings. By missing so badly on Hurricane Nate, the local media and Mayor Landrieu damaged their already diminished credibility.