Journalists, photographers washed out by Irene anecdotes

Man with camera and umbrella

WASHINGTON, SEPT. 2—Eleven TV camera operators, two dozen photographers, and 53 journalists have been admitted to emergency rooms in the Washington Metropolitan Area in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, complaining of exhaustion after more than 96 hours of non-stop anecdote generation.

“I had just spoken to an Outer Banks mother who evacuated with five kids, and was dialing the director of an assisted living facility in New Hampshire when all of a sudden my knees crumpled,” said David Barnes, a reporter for the Associated Press, from a bed at the Washington Hospital Center. “It was going to be a great bookended piece, covering the human struggle from south to north,” Barnes added. “Now with these damn IVs I can barely transcribe my notes or drink a G and T.”

Two rooms away from where the writer turned soggy Steno pages, Trisha Yates gazed at the mud-splattered digital display of her Canon 40D camera. A recent graduate of a photojournalism program at Columbia University, Yates was a college student in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since then, she longed to show the real faces and communities of those affected by disaster. “I got my wish,” she said, “and look where it got me. On doctor’s orders to stay in a dry bed.”

As Irene plodded north, swallowing days of front pages and dominating TV news teasers, members of the media like Barnes and Yates were left scouring every moist surface for fresh angles.

Most reporters estimate the stress began during the evening news cycle on Aug. 22, as reporters’ interviews sprinkled the coast of Puerto Rico. Soon, media outlets were producing a flurry of hundreds of articles, news stories, and TV spots every day, and each one demanded a juicy individual story. All that week, reporters waited in long lines at microfiche machines, trying to gather ideas and historical articles in case their inspiration waned. Just as they had feared, the stock of original questions, stories, and images soon diminished.By the morning of Aug. 29, a handful of media representatives had already burnt out.

“At first, I had my suburban reporter talking to people irate over school closings, or asking a college kid with a tree on his car how he felt about it,” said Bruce McAndrews, a producer at ABC 7 News in the District who had covered Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and the so-called Snowmageddon of 2010. “Then we went through a series of shots of a woman looking forlornly at  her wrecked house, an old guy on his porch looking forlornly at downed trees, a state trooper looking forlornly at a highway cracked in half… by early this week, viewers were yawning and reporters showed signs of giving way.”

At the hospital early Friday morning, the young photographer was still trying to make sense of the situation. “I thought when I snapped kids paddling down a main street in a stock pot, that was pretty amazing,” said Yates. “But the truth is, nothing’s new or shocking anymore. It’s just a waterlogged mass of humanity out there.”

Note: This piece is purely satirical and specific facts and names are fictional. No members of the media were harmed in the writing of this article.

(Photo by Timothy Krause and used under  Creative Commons license.)

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