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Flood 2

The flooding of the Iowa River has occupied much of my mind and time this week and will continue to do so through much of next. I have not had much time to write about it, though I have been taking photographs and uploading them to my Flickr page. If you have any questions about anything you see, please ask. But what follows are basically notes that I want to elaborate upon later:

  1. The Press-Citizen‘s coverage has been atrocious: a) The paper has been blind to the effects of the river on the poor. One of the first-hit neighborhoods was the Baculis and Thatcher mobile home parks, which are south of the city. Here’s Brian Morelli’s lone impact story on the evacuation of the neighborhoods. (Compare: as of tonight, a Google search of the paper’s website returns 39 stories—not all of them stories about the flood or stories at all—that mention “baculis”; mention of “normandy drive,” a middle-class neighborhood which was evacuated at the same time as the mobile home park returns 158 stories.) b) Likewise, there has been a lot of shallow coverage of people’s experiences of the flood, such as this story of a frustrated bride, but very little to trace how men and women are being forced to alter their lives. (The focus on Normandy Drive has yielded some of these.) Why hasn’t the paper stationed a reporter or photographer at an emergency shelter for a few days on end to interview evacuees and find out who they are and how they cope? Why hasn’t the paper pulled volunteers off the sandbagging lines and asked them to describe why they work as hard as they do? Why hasn’t the paper sent a reporter to ride with a dumptruck driver to see what she sees and discover what she thinks as she drives across town delivering sand all over the city? c) The paper’s photographers must be blind, because as many places as they’ve been and as many things as they’ve done to follow stories, they haven’t gotten but three decent shots, and not one of those is a portrait.
  2. Mark Penn had his “soccer moms,” and it’s a phrase that I’ve been tossing around pejoratively all day today, but my (and K’s) particular experience today was with a “triathlon mom” who was as controlling as anyone I’ve met in some time.
  3. In disaster volunteering, one must guard against developing the moral arithmetic of comparing one’s own virtue to another’s. Buff, shirtless, college-aged men drinking beer and playing cornhole < oblivious waifs dressed-to-the-9s < able-bodied siteseers < elderly and crippled siteseers < governors and senators surveying the damage < tireless city workers earning overtime < volunteers for private property < volunteers for public property < victims. It might be different or more or less nuanced for others.


I’ll put my saturday pics up sunday a.m.

I am not inclined to say that this story by Peter Wasson represents “ask and ye shall receive,” but it’s a start. Typical of the coverage, however, is that the people actually staying in the shelter are represented by a single family, and that family is used as color to frame the story rather than be the story itself. Wasson spends most of his inches talking to shelter directors.

I’ve read very little of the coverage, having been rather overwhelmed by pictures, emails from my mother (whose comments on news coverage echo yours—I’ll quote below), and the UI flood blog. The last of these suffers from many of the same shortcomings as the other news coverage, but because it recounts so many places that are a part of the history of my life, I suppose I find it particularly affecting.

From an email from my mother, for the record:

On the other hand, one more picture of person towing/paddling a
canoe/small boat along Taft Speedway/wherever to retrieve belongings and I may scream. I’ve seen that shot, folks. What’s it like where the animals have been relocated? More helicopter shots. How’s it going at the fairgrounds where the Red Cross is opening shelter?

What’s happening to the people who live under the bridges?

Good questions, all. Stay dry.

I’m in good company if your mom agrees. I haven’t read as many of the stories out of Cedar Rapids, but my impression of the Gazette‘s coverage (due in no small part to the high quality of the photography) is that it has been stronger and more diverse regarding CR than the Press-Citizen‘s has been of IC.

By the way, Bryan Glass on Flickr has some good shots of the west side.

Wow. Tensions are high in Cedar Rapids. (Credit to the reporter for communicating that fact well.)