NPR has been doing a great job reporting on Katrina and its aftermath. Here are a couple of links:
Geoff Nunberg, who is a contributor to Fresh Air, wrote an essay about languge used in news reports, specifically–looting and refugee. He has a longer version of essay on his website. here is the story link on npr. NPR’s realplayer link. And here is my home-recorded ogg file.
All Things Considered‘s Laura Sullivan and Daniel Zwerling reports on Katrina’s timeline, in two parts. On The Media have and will be reporing on Katrina-related language as well and media coverage. Here is Bob Garfield quoted from OTM’s email newsletter:
September 9, 2005
Greetings from NPR’s On the Media…
Over the years, weâ€™ve periodically taken closer looks at certain words or phrases that seem to be particularly resonant in the media. This weekâ€™s â€œWord Watchâ€ is about refugee, the term applied to Katrina victims forced en masse from their homes and communities. Nobody had given it much thought until early last week, when various black leaders began to protest. They said applying it to the mainly African-American victims smacked of racism. Shortly thereafter, many media organizations decided to use evacuees instead.
The assignment was to look at the question â€“ linguistically, sociologically, politically and, of course, journalistically â€“ to see what all the fuss was about. That job could have fallen to either Brooke or me; the other would do a survey of movies set in New Orleans. As it turned out, the sequence of elements in the show dictated Iâ€™d get the Word Watch.
My first impulse was to dismiss the whole controversy. Iâ€™m very skeptical of political correctness in general, but especially so when it abuses language to codify its tyranny. Call a thing by its name, I say, and â€œrefugeeâ€ certainly did the job for me. For starters, these unfortunate souls are people taking refuge. Secondly, they are a large displaced population. Thirdly, as the piece observes, previous American victims of hurricanes had been called refugees, and nobody has squawked before.
But then, damn, I started talking to people. And, damn, my point of view changed. I direct you to the lead piece of the show to see precisely how. But itâ€™s worth noting that this happens quite a bit at On the Media. We are not un-opinionated people. We are not shy with our points of view. And often the pieces that we do reflect the very axe we determine to grind from the Monday story meeting onward. (I refer you to my screed later in this weekâ€™s show about â€œthe blame game.”) But very often they donâ€™t. Because while we are subjective, we are not doctrinaire. We donâ€™t forage for stories that seem to validate our unshakeable positions; we look for issues and explore them. This occasionally results in our learning something â€“ which kind of sucks, because who likes being disabused of preconceived notions? But itâ€™s an occupational hazard.
If only we could be more simplistic. They pay much better at Fox.
– Bob Garfield, OTM co-host