One of America’s great cities — a place of good food, easy living, great natural beauty and an absolutely rockin’ music scene — is under water. Homes are flooded, local landmarks have been destroyed, people have died.
New Orleans, right?
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As you may have heard, torrential downpours in the southeast flooded the Tennessee capital of Nashville over the weekend, lifting the Cumberland River 13 feet above flood stage, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage, and killing more than 30 people. It could wind up being one of the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history.
Or, on second thought, maybe you didn’t hear. With two other “disasters” dominating the headlines–the Times Square bombing attempt and the Gulf oil spill–the national media seems to largely to have ignored the plight of Music City since the flood waters began inundating its streets on Sunday. A cursory Google News search shows 8,390 hits for “Times Square bomb” and 13,800 for “BP oil spill.” “Nashville flood,” on the other hand, returns only 2,430 results–many of them local. As Betsy Phillips of the Nashville Scene writes, “it was mind-boggling to flip by CNN, MSNBC, and FOX on Sunday afternoon and see not one station even occasionally bringing their viewers footage of the flood, news of our people dying.”
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Well, who cares about Opryland? Or Nashvegas — the home of the country music industry — for that matter? Bunch of hillbillies and, most likely, Tea Partiers:
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Andrew Romano continues:
So why the cold shoulder? I see two main reasons. First, the modern media may be more multifarious than ever, but they’re also remarkably monomaniacal. In a climate where chatter is constant and ubiquitous, newsworthiness now seems to be determined less by what’s most important than by what all those other media outlets are talking about the most. Sheer volume of coverage has become its own qualification for continued coverage. (Witness the Sandra Bullock-Jesse James saga.) In that sense, it’s easy to see why the press can’t seem to focus on more than one or two disasters at the same time. Everyone is talking about BP and Faisal Shahzad 24/7, the “thinking” goes. So there must not be anything else that’s as important to talk about. It’s a horrible feedback loop.
Of course, the media is also notorious for its ADD; no story goes on forever. Which brings us to the second reason the Nashville floods never gained much of a foothold in the national conversation: the “narrative” simply wasn’t as strong.
Got in two, Newsweek! Nashville had all of the elements of Katrina, except for the “narrative” bits: no helpless population, no incompetent governor, no hopeless mayor, no looting, no screeching about FEMA, and most important, no Republican in the White House. Instead, it offered a community that banded together, took on the task, saved its neighbors, fought back the floods and is now getting on with its life.
In other words, it offered an old fashioned America: folks doing what Americans do best, including that most important thing: not whining. Maybe that’s why they call it the Volunteer State.
Meanwhile, where was the media? You know, the caring, bleeding-heart media mostly located in Georgetown and on the Upper West Side, the journalism majors who’ve dedicated their lives to fighting for the Little Guy?
Why, in Washington, with the biggest of Big Guy, of course:
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Now that you understand the “narrative,” your thoughts, comments and observations welcome.