Cable news reported on Hurricane Irene as if it was Armageddon in the making, and in the end, the coverage was a tempest in a teapot, writes Howard Kurtz for the Daily Beast. "The tsunami of hype on this story was relentless, a Category 5 performance that was driven in large measure by ratings." Producers, keen to keep viewers, didn't want to break away from coverage, and played up footage from local stations. Politicians kept the drama high by holding constant press conferences.
Sure, there was deep water on Long Beach, but it’s "a narrow barrier island three feet above sea level and prone to flooding." Yes, a man was saved from rising waters in New York, but this is stuff that "we routinely see in flooded Mississippi River towns." Indeed, "you could almost hear the air come out of the media’s hot-air balloon of constant coverage when Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm." A glimmer of reality crept in at the end, with Anderson Cooper conceding that the situation in Manhattan was "actually not bad at all." Lesson learned? Not a chance, concludes Kurtz, who predicts coverage will be just as blustery next time. Click to read his entire column.