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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Great Moments in Prose

In the mornings Niles and I read the newspaper. When he's gone I usually don't bother, preferring to get my news from the Web. Niles is a dedicated newspaper reader though (which is why he's not better-informed), and reads the backlog of papers after he returns from his trip.

Which is the reason why I didn't read the special K section -- a hurricane retrospective -- in the October 7th Houston Chronicle until yesterday, and so missed this priceless example of journalistic prose by Mike Tolson:

In this tale of two cities, there was no best of times -- only bad and worse. One lost its confidence, the other its very core. In the space of a month, the two largest cities on the Gulf Coast were humbled by a rude convergence of climate, geography and bad luck. Houston and New Orleans, who share so little by way of history, now are linked indefinitely by tragedy.

Two cities, two storms. Born near the Bahamas, where they emerged as little more than a gleam in a forecaster's eye, Katrina and Rita found their destiny hundreds of miles away, their last steps a brutal challenge to the hubris of those who would establish major settlements where great storms go to die.


Judging by this snippet reported by Tim Blair, I believe James "I root for hurricanes" Wolcott would approve:

In the week following Katrina's marauding of the Gulf Coast, American journalism magically awakened, arose from its glass coffin, and roused itself to impromptu glory...

To hear Fox New's Shepard Smith release an angry howl that hasn't been heard since Allen Ginsberg went atomic, to see CNN's courtly Anderson Cooper tell Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu to wake up and smell the corpses (she got the message, later threatening to punch President Bush if the feds kept bad-mouthing local officials), to witness the sobbing breakdown of Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard as he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press about the drowning death of an emergency worker's elderly mother, who had waited four days for a rescue that never came--it was like removing a lid and and releasing the pent-up truth.

OK, for that, I need a bigger font: WRITING!

So journalism, then, is redefined as overwrought emotionalism, rather than the disinterested pursuit of facts. Obviously Mike Tolson is bound for journalistic glory. Bon voyage!

(By the way, the inclusion of Aaron Broussard's fifteen seconds of fame is particularly apt, since it was all emotion with only trace amounts of pent-up truth.)