Why the storm wasn't overhyped, dogs and the mentally ill, the secret life of metal-detector hunters, the way we learn, and what the end of summer looks like.
The Monday Morning Rouser:
1) THE MOURNING AFTER
Irene is pretty much history now and all that's left is the inexplicable braying about the hype that preceded it. In the end, what did we miss by having the news industry consumed with a rainstorm for a few days -- the latest silly thing that a politician said? Worry not. There'll be plenty more. But for those who couldn't make it to the Minnesota State Fair this weekend, Irene coverage provided the best freak show in town.
There were the people who paraded behind the live standing-in-the-storm reports (warning: graphic content) ...
... and the reporter who was standing in raw sewage without realizing it.
... then there's the gallery of pug dogs preparing for the hurricane.
You already know what I think about reporters standing in water to cover a flood, so....
Our personal favorite, however, is meteorologist Paul Douglas' reaction to the coverage (click below to get a more readable image).
A reporter standing in sewage during a hurricane? Not unexpected. Naked guys running behind a reporter? Predictable. Paul Douglas embarrassed by weatherpeople's hype? That's why Hurricane Irene will go down as a historic storm.
This was the scene around my mother-in-law's neighborhood in the Berkshires. You know, I just don't see Paul Douglas playing this down if it were in Minnesota.
Up the road in Vermont, this covered bridge no longer exists...
And there are these 25 images for people who think it was hype to consider.
The problem isn't that the storm was a dud --
15 21 people are dead and damage may reach $7 billion. How many more would have had to die for the storm to meet expectations? -- it's that the TV people were trying to tell the story from the wrong location. People think of beaches and winds when there's a hurricane. But it's the rain and tornadoes that cause the destruction inland. No network stationed a reporter inland in anticipation of the storm, betraying their understanding of how hurricanes actually work.
Anyway, we'll check back when that two-inch snowstorm hits the Twin Cities this winter and see how you downplay it, Paul Douglas.
2) DOGS AND THE MENTALLY ILL
Other than the phone call on the second day of vacation that my wife is losing her job, the vacation was just fine, thank you for asking. While that was the lowlight, this was the highlight:
This is Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont -- my wife's ancestral home. It was created by artist Stephen Huneck, who ran his gallery from the city, which is a pretty hardscrabble, straight-laced community of old New Englanders who once worked the mills, the woods, and the railroads. None of those jobs is coming back, but Huneck's was doing well when he created the Dog Chapel.
Inside, it's impossible not to reflect on the love between people and their dogs. From floor to ceiling, Post-It notes pay tribute to a long-lost pal...
But Dog Mountain comes with a heavy sadness beyond lost animal friends. Huneck suffered from depression and when the economy tanked in 2008, his business declined, he had to lay off people from his company and he faced losing the mountain. He shot himself in the head while sitting in his car outside his psychiatrist's office.
So Dog Mountain is also a chance to reflect on the love -- or quite often, the lack of it -- between us and those who suffer from depression and are at war with their own brain.
It was a timely visit, given that many of those people are the people my wife helped. Her services are no longer needed and it's not because there's been a sudden drop in the number of people with mental illness who are desperate for help.
We are shameless in our deep devotion to our dogs. We have a long way to go to elevate the mentally ill to a dog's status.
Here's an article in a recent Yankee Magazine about Huneck and Dog Mountain that's well worth taking the time to read.
3) THE SECRET LIVES OF METAL-DETECTOR HUNTERS
Wired magazine has jumped into the hobby of scavenging beaches and other locales in search of buried treasure. An example of what it found: Those romanticized moments of spreading ashes at sea, for example, often don't end there.
People who ask to have their ashes scattered on the beach may think that their remains will simply disappear into the ecosystem, but little tokens can survive.
Cremation tags, metal discs the size of a quarter, are attached to each corpse as it arrives by the mortician. They are made to withstand the cremation and end up in the funeral urn, in case someone has to double-check the identity of ashes.
"When they go down and throw Uncle Fred off the cliff at the ocean, the tag will survive," explains avid beachcomber Dennis Wilson.
4) THE WAY WE LEARN
NPR is reporting this morning that scientists have determined there is no evidence that people learn in different ways, ignoring the wisdom of parents of multiple children everywhere who know better.
5) THE END OF SUMMER
A week or so ago, I solicited your images of what the end of summer looks like to you. Reader Bill Bruins of Rochester says, "my end of summer is closing up the bluebird nest boxes."
For students in Minneapolis and some other districts, today is the first day of school. For everyone else, the school year is just around the corner. Today's Question: In your family, is the start of the school year a cause for happiness or dread?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The perils of investing in a shaky stock market.
Second hour: The American Legion's role in providing support to veterans and working with other organizations within the community.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, from the Minnesota State Fair.
Second hour: Veterinarian Kate An Hunter answers your pet-care questions.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: TBA
Second hour: Rethinking eyewitness testimony.
Perhaps the excessive hype has to do with the action graphics and sound effects used to introduce some of the 'news' coverage I saw. It simply isn't enough to report the news any more. It now has to be a Hoolywood-style production similar to an action/adventure flick. With so many of the 'news' outlets, all stories must be played to the same excitement 'volume' if you will, such that you can't tell the difference between the important ones and those being used to fill air time.
That's more a reflection on us than them. The news consumer today needs the bright, shiny objects.
If substance was what people wanted, PBS NewsHour would be the #1 rated TV news program.
But this is also a study on how once the media grabs an angle, it's hard to let go. It wasn't more than a couple of minutes after the hurricane eye passed New York that Kurtz was out with his article, and the Times was posting its "how did they get it wrong?" story, and the TV news anchors were shifting to the "did we overhype it" angle.
It didn't matter to them that the hurricane wasn't over, that the story wasn't over, and an entire section of the United States was suffering to an amazing degree. It's truly amazing that the networks didn't have *anyone* stationed north of New York where everyone knew the hurricane was going to go. I mean, geez, if the hurricane is going up through the Albany/Berkshire area, why are you reporting on some waves on Cape Cod? So the story isn't the storm was hyped, the story is the multi-million dollar news industry spent all that money... and ended up missing the story.
Once it realized that, CNN yesterday shifted to "why didn't officials do more in Vermont to prepare?" angle. They got the governor on the phone. The anchor asked, "why didn't you evacuate sooner?" to which the incredulous governor asked, "You wanted me to evacuate the entire state?".
"No, just the people in harm's way," she responded, showing an utter ignorance of Vermont where EVERYONE is in harm's way, Every city is along a river and the problem is rushing creeks off mountains, not, say, the Connecticut River.
But it was interesting that while it was playing up the "why did you react so quickly?" angle in New York, it was trying to sell the "why didn't you react more?" in Vermont.
It was a perfect example of the myopia of the media that, frankly and honestly, we also hear about all the time from listeners who aren't in the Twin Cities.
It gets back to an old issue for me: The inability of people in the media to understand an issue that doesn't personally affect them in some way.
\\The news consumer today needs the bright, shiny objects.
Sad. I agree with you. It's just sad.
And you know, by focusing on the graphics, sound effects, and staged shots of reporters standing in places noone would actually go in a storm, most of the media misses the actual compelling stories buried in the 25 images you linked to. That's the value of MPR and NPR. The stories speak for themselves.
We've been through this before. Remember Nashville?
You know, I gotta say: The images from the storm are incredibly compelling. But this also happens awfully often along the Red River valley--washed out roads, flooded tunnels, etc. And we do just fine, and the folks on the coast could give two sh*ts.
I realize I'm coming off as a bitter Midwesterner, but these sorts of disasters happen everywhere, and are devastating everywhere. Irene isn't an anomaly--it's the norm for people all over the world.
Now, let's get some help for the folks affected by Irene, and then cut away to the parts of the world not getting much press, proportionate to their disasters--Somalia, Haiti (still), etc...
Those 25 photos do tell more of the story than any of the coverage on the TV that I had watched over the week-end.
#25. What is left of the water tank would make an excellent bowl for skaters, with a few modifications.
I like that you pointed out the "conventional wisdom" of parents about children learning differently being at odds with scientific findings. I don't agree with you, but i can understand why you would say it because the anecdotal evidence seems to counter the science. I don't have my own kids to give a parental viewpoint, but teaching elementary students for the last 3 years and participating in research studies that correlate to this article have helped point out quite well that we all learn in one particular way: the way that teaches the content the best, regardless of what it is and how long it takes.
A close mentor reminded me what its like to teach a little one how to tie their shoes: you can say it to them and show it to them until your patience runs out, but the only way they'll learn it is if you let their fingers do the work.
Item number 2.
I am sorry to hear about Mrs. Newscut's job. You are correct in saying that there is a large need for mental health help. That is, Good mental health help.
Mrs. Newscut will be re-employed soon, that is if she chooses to go back.
Anyone who knows much about THE NEWS (or storms) had a pretty strong sense that the hurricane was being over hyped.
THE NEWS is primarily about reporting negative events, either for the purpose of inducing fear, or to invoke an unspoken, subconscious sense of relief that no matter how difficult MY life is right now, at least it's not THAT bad. (Experiments have been done with POSITIVE news, and it doesn't sell).
When my wife became pregnant with our first child, I got out of THE NEWS biz, because I didn't want my child to be exposed to the darkness that I dealt with for a living.
I'm still an addict, but I no longer WATCH the news, so at least I'm not constantly absorbing the violent images.
//folks on the coast could give two sh*ts.
I recall in '09 -- and I'm pretty sure '97 -- there was a ton of national coverage about the floods. I think once it started to happen every year, the national newspeople lost interest although I'm pretty sure Minot got quite a bit of coverage this year.
Hurricanes happen very infrequently in New England.
Haiti got a TON of coverage. Japan got a TON of coverage. It just didn't extended coverage and this one won't either. See above for why that is.
Sorry about your wife's job. Perhaps Newscut readers have some leads?