Wednesday into Thursday

The coverage on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina continues. On Wednesday night (being the news junkie and lacking any other tv alternative), I watched both the NBC Dateline and ABC News coverage.

Brian Williams anchored the Dateline edition – he carried it off well, looking tanned (he has been in the sun all day, obviously, toiling for the stories for coverage) and professional, in the Tom Brokaw tradition of Good Middle American in the Middle of an American Story. I don’t mean to downplay it, but it just felt a little awkward for me, as if the stories were a little too well crafted.

ABC had Elizabeth Vargas in front of a damaged inn in Mississippi. She did a nice job seguing between the taped portions (where ABC got personal, putting in the perspectives of Cokie Roberts and Robin Roberts, whose roots are in the Gulf coast; ABC especially put in a portion of Robin Roberts drove down through Mississippi on Tuesday to check on conditions and to check her family – it was touching to see the human side of Robin Roberts, as she broke down when Charles Gibson asked if she got through to her family) and the live portions (Vargas checking in on Chris Bury, sweating among the masses at New Orleans Superdome to get on buses for Houston’s Astrodome, the refugee location – why didn’t NBC get this scene in?). Ted Koppell on Nightline also did a nice job getting some insights on New Orleans from his panel (Cokie Roberts, Winton Marsalis, among others).

I don’t know – I’ve always been a bit partial to the ABC News presentations. They seem to capture the whole big picture better, as well as the human stories. Maybe it’s a continuation of the Peter Jennings professionalism?

I haven’t caught enough of CBS News’ coverage to comment, beyond what I saw on Sunday night and Monday morning – John Roberts taking over for Dan Rather? (wasn’t Dan the one who got almost swept away by Hurricane Andrew?).

Well, there’s just a lot of reporters converging on the human tragedy – it feels almost exploitive, but then is it just because this is the age we live in – we’re just going to have to live with the media madness? Or, without this coverage, would we know how to help our fellow humans, or at least better understand human nature (or Mother Nature for that matter)?

Some other stuff for observation:

Wednesday’s Village Voice did an article on hot dogs. I liked the PBS documentary on hot dogs, and this article reminded me of it, even with its NYC outlook.

And, Village Voice also did an article on the empowered NYC Asian and Middle Eastern voters. Jarrett Murphy reports, among other things:

The black-white-Hispanic-obsessed lingo aside, mayoral candidates in 2005 are hunting votes in neighborhoods where the signs might be in Arabic, Urdu, and Cantonese. “I think all the candidates are paying more attention to the Asian American vote—the existing Asian American vote as well as the fast-growing numbers of Asian American voters,” says City Councilman John Liu of Queens, where 50 percent of the city’s Asians live, composing 18 percent of the borough’s people.

Umm, wait, Mr. Murphy – there’s no such thing as signs in Cantonese. Cantonese’s written language is Chinese… Anyway, he further writes on the increasing recognition of the Asian voter:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign, meanwhile, boasts the backing of the Chinese-language Sing Tao newspaper, which the mayor’s campaign calls “the first-ever such endorsement in the paper’s 40-year history.” Bloomberg 2005 also has set up Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Bloomberg, a group headlined by a Korean from Long Island, an Indian American businessman from Queens, and a Pakistani dentist from Staten Island.

Ethnic labels are crude by definition: You’re black whether you just flew in from Senegal or are descended from slaves shipped to U.S. shores centuries ago. Latinos include light-skinned Cubans and Indian-blooded families from Ecuador. But the categories make some sense if common concerns affect the people they cover. And while Asian and Middle Eastern New Yorkers care about failing schools, high rent, rats, and all the usual urban woes, they also worry about things that other groups needn’t fear.

“There are lots of issues that Asian Americans share,” said Liu, “one being the immigrant experience, being relatively recent immigrant arrivals. And Asians also suffer from a perpetual- foreigner syndrome, meaning that you could be a fourth- or fifth-generation Asian American but still somehow it’s difficult to believe that you’re an American. I get that: First they compliment me on my ability to speak English, and often I get asked, ‘Well, where are you from?’ and for some reason people refuse to take Flushing for an answer.” [….]

Yeah, I love it when complete strangers walk up to me and complement me on my English, and ask me where I’m from (“no, really, where?”) or even the lovely “Are you Chinese?” (well, yes, but does it matter to you, pal?, especially when you too appear to be Chinese and seem a bit annoying for asking the question)… No, I mean, really, isn’t my Brooklyn accent a little on the obvious side as to where I’m from?

Ok, all kidding aside, I liked that this article got the important points from Councilman Liu and Assemblyman Jimmy Meng that the Asian voter population of NYC is itself diverse – ranging from difference in opinions on what important issues and class and even immigration status (more recent immigrants would have different priorities than more established ones; Asians in Flushing might have different concerns than those in Manhattan Chinatown or even in Brooklyn), such that a NYC politician of 2005 really needs to be savvy. Hmm. Food for thought.

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