09/18/2007 02:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Template Refuses to Die

The template of the New Orleans story was put in place by the mainstream media long since: the city got whacked, same as the Mississippi Gulf Coast, by Hurricane Katrina. What New Orleanians know--that the city was ravaged by floods caused by improperly designed and built federal floodwalls which breached under storm surge conditions weaker than those the structures were supposed to protect against--is known by few viewers and readers of mainstream media. Latest example: today's Los Angeles Times profiles some elderly people trying to rebuild their homes and lives in the lower Ninth Ward.

Report Richard Faussette, for example, writes:

Former handyman Charles Taylor, 81, knows that fixing Katrina's damage will be his life's last job.

And his lede says it all:

NEW ORLEANS -- For many elderly survivors of Hurricane Katrina
Another in a series of what newspaper reporters used to call sob stories, no sense of the context of the disaster, nor of the cause--malfeasance by a federal agency, bought and paid for by you and me.

ADDENDUM: Eric Alterman refers to the same phenomenon as "the narrative", and
thinks it only applies to campaign coverage. Or chooses to think so.

For the people who cover them for a living, elections are not about issues or evidence or even truth; they are about the narrative. Campaigns struggle to define it long before voters are paying attention--because once the narrative is determined, it's virtually impervious to revision.