‘New Ways to Frame the Mammoth Horror’: Media First Responders and the Katrina Event

Sara Knox


Abstract

This article explores the state of emergency following Hurrican Katrina or ‘the Katrina Event’ with reference to the role of media first responders. Throughout the ensuing disaster the performance of the media (including celebrity advocates like Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo Rivera and Kanye West) worked as a mechanism for technical remastery in the face of systemic breakdown. This re-mediation of panic and of the state of emergency shifted attention from the local (that is, from the acts of witness by Katrina’s victims) to national reactions (as figured by advocates of the cause of the neglected poor of New Orleans). In this way even as voice was given to the failure of the nation to rise to the needs of its most vulnerable citizens, the figure of the nation as carer was re-instantiated in the televised outrage and frustration of talk show hosts, news anchors, and charity fund-raising celebrities.

Keywords

Hurricane Katrina; panic; media first responders; New Orleans; celebrity

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