In retrospect, the biggest problem with Howard Kurtz’s rant about the media’s overhyping Irene was that he was way too early. When I linked to him on Sunday afternoon, the storm clearly seemed to have fizzled — and the main question at the time was whether the media should have been more restrained, or if we were dealing with a genuinely threatening situation that just happened not to pan out. Then came the floods.
Yesterday, New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter and I appeared on “The Emily Rooney Show” on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) to discuss whether the media were guilty of overkill. Essentially we were in agreement: the non-stop coverage was too much and often silly; the fact that Irene veered away from Washington and New York City initially made it seem like the storm had been oversold; but given the devastation in Vermont, Upstate New York, Western Massachusetts and parts of New Hampshire, it turned out that the storm hadn’t be overhyped at all. (It was a great kick to share the stage for a moment with Stelter, whom I hugely admire. Here is his Monday story on the Weather Channel.)
The last word goes to Charles Apple (via Martin Langeveld), who mocks the hype theory with images of the reality on the ground. Irene was a major storm that will affect the region for months to come. It was, in some respects, every bit as bad as the predictions — just different.
Video above is from Brattleboro Community Television.
Fallen branch by the side of Route 127 in Beverly. Click on image for more photos.
Even though we weren’t hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene on the North Shore, I thought it would be fun to drive around and take some pictures this afternoon. Nothing too dramatic. I started in Danvers and made my way to Beverly, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Magnolia before heading home.
The ocean off the coast in Manchester and Magnolia was by far the most visually interesting. Just slightly inland there was little wind. But by the shore it was still strong, as seagulls literally flew in place against the air currents.
I shot some video, too, but since it wasn’t as good as this, I decided not to post it.
Here was my prediction for Tropical Inconvenience Irene: a half-inch of rain and 20 mph winds. As it turned out, I wasn’t that far off, at least for those of us who live on the North Shore.
But does it necessarily follow that the media overhyped what turned out to be the Storm of the Week? At the Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz excoriates cable news, writing that “the tsunami of hype on this story was relentless, a Category 5 performance that was driven in large measure by ratings.”
Kurtz’s point is that the storm got the coverage that it did mainly because it was heading toward New York City, and it’s hard to disagree. But Irene has caused tremendous damage in the South, and flooding could be heavy in western Massachusetts and southern Vermont later today.
What I’d like to know is whether there is reason to believe Irene was overhyped from the beginning — or if this was a legitimate potential disaster that just happened to fizzle out.