Friday, September 21, 2007

The one where a bunch of people died, lost their homes, and were abandoned

In the days of "fair and balanced" newspaper coverage, shrinking news holes, and a seemingly round-the-clock obsession with Britney's oh-so-slight tummy bulge, journalism these days often seems to have abdicated its vital role in the workings of democracy.

But the work of The Times-Picayune's journalists and the sacrifices they made to record Hurricane Katrina's aftermath in New Orleans serves as a reminder of the importance that newspapers play in documenting injustice.

In a short documentary, Eyes of the Storm, made for the two-year anniversary of the storm, the editors and staff photographers of The Times-Picayune recalled the events of Katrina through their photos. The video is 25 minutes long, but well worth the time. One of the most poignant moments is when one photographer describes how a stranded woman desperately led him to the body of an old man - so that the world might see, and know, what happened there.

Doug Parker, the paper's photo editor said in the film's introduction, "People who work for newspapers...think that they can change the world."

New Orleans remains a long way from recovery, but the video serves as a moving reminder that journalism still matters when practiced by people who uphold a solemn responsibility to the First Amendment.

And while we're watching videos on the subject...

Another video documents the terrible conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison. Ashley, a 13-year-old runaway held at a youth detention center, was transferred to the adult prison for the approaching storm. In the video, she describes being abandoned by guards and left in waist-high water for days without food and water.

The clip is part of the ACLU's comprehensive report Broken Promises. Since the waters have receded, the ACLU continues to be inundated with reports of racial injustice and human rights violations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Broken Promises highlights stories of ongoing police abuse, racial profiling, housing discrimination, along with other civil liberties violations and the ACLU's continuing response.

Lauri in York

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