There are news stories that make you want to fix things. The reports on Hurricane Katrina made me feel that way. The problems were not just in the federal government's response--as hopelessly inept as it was for at least the first three critical days. I was equally appalled by state and local governments, which didn't seem to consider the reality that many people--the poor, the elderly and the disabled, in particular--were unable, without help, to flee, no matter how urgently evacuation orders were issued. But as a journalist, I was also disheartened by my colleagues in the media. On the day before the hurricane struck, most news reports showed clogged highways and blindly accepted the official line that most were leaving. On the day Katrina roared in, reporters seemed only interested in showing how strong the winds were by clownishly walking out into them. Few questioned the insanity of herding people into the low-lying Superdome when the biggest threat was from flooding. Few asked why buses were not provided for those without transportation; why house-to-house checks were not conducted; and why nursing home residents were abandoned. Instead, I heard endlessly about looters and shoot-to-kill orders. Since the devastation, the media has graphically depicted the needless death and suffering caused by governments that cared more about property than life. But like the government response, it feels too late. Of course, it didn't have to be this way, as you'll see in an article in News & Views on how BellSouth came to the aid of its employees simply by planning ahead. Kudos to BellSouth and all the companies that stepped up to help.
From the October 2005 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine