Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Flooding Fiction

Yes, those are rushing Mississippi River flood waters - a torrent pouring virtually harmlessly into Lake Pontchatrain. No, no one is losing their home, business or life in front of them. Officials opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway a few days ago to prevent flooding of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and more importantly (in some folks minds) the endless number of chemical plants and oil refineries that edge the immediate shore behind the Levees between Baton Rouge and The Big Easy.

I'm in Louisiana to document the Mississippi River flood waters for National Audubon Society (more on why it's important to a bird group in a later posting.) Just saw a CNN report this morning from Morgan City, Louisiana - about 85 southwest of New Orleans. The reporter was standing in front of a old house I looked at yesterday, but decided not to photograph because it just wasn't all that dramatic, the flooding around its raised foundation. The owners were working, unrushed and jovial, to jack it up six feet to save it from possible rising waters. They told me they needed to do it anyway, save the place from future river rises (in this case the Atchafalaya River that rolls past waterfront Morgan City.) CNN put their reporter in hip-waders and had him stand in a foot of water with the house behind him reporting - it certainly had the visual feeling of impending doom - yet I know exactly where the camerman was standing - s/he and camera were plenty dry, as was the rest of Morgan City behind them. Good reporting or flooding fiction? Maybe just not the "whole" truth. Actually more the "misleading" truth by not showing the whole story. Oh well - the difference between media and journalism.

What was most frustrating is this is a network (CNN) that has its star anchor/journalist, Anderson Cooper, doing a spot on his nightly AC360 program in which he exposes others for not telling the truth, or "misleading" the truth. A bit hypocritical?

Undoubtedly there are people impacted by the most dramatic flooding of the Mississippi River since the record floods of 1927 (great book about that event - Rising Tide by John M. Barry) which created much of the levee building mess we are in today and altered the life of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers, and ultimately the entire Mississippi Delta. And those people do indeed need there stories told. On a larger scale we need to be discussing now, while this is front and center in everyone's sights (thank you media hype) that this river, one of the three greatest river systems in the world, and worth more billions of dollars to this nation (in addition to sculpting much of its history, physically, politically and economically) needs help and attention.

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