Katrina, Five Years Later: A News Consumer's Guide To The Anniversary Stories

If you aren't aware that this weekend marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, you will be by the time Monday rolls around.

Newspapers, TV shows and websites will be heavy on commemorating the event. Here's what to look for:

1. The use of music
We're guessing some pre-Katrina shots will include some second-line marching, maybe some Mardi Gras parade scenes with lively music (Professor Longhair, no doubt). Generic ominous strings will accompany radar shots of Katrina in the Gulf. If anyone uses Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" ("Louisiana, they're trying to wash us away..."), forget it -- that's as bad as "There's something happening here...." in a `60s documentary.

2. The rehabilitation of Michael Brown
Brown was the unqualified political appointee who utterly mishandled the Katrina response, aided and abetted by Bush administration apathy. But since he got canned, Brown has energetically and tirelessly engaged in a media tour, where he has charmed reporters and shoved the blame for the federal response elsewhere. He doesn't get challenged on it much, even in a recent interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Don't believe it -- his incompetence and lack of experience were key in the whole affair.

3. How graphic will it get?
There are plenty of pictures of corpses lying, covered or uncovered, in New Orleans streets in the wake of the storm. Does the show you're watching show only a few quick shots, or does it linger accusingly over a series of photos with a mournful but soulful soundtrack?

4. Houston's role
First, we will open our hearts. You'll see pictures or footage of buses pulling up to the Dome, and of course shots from the upper-deck of the cot-filled field. We'll be lauded for dropping off clothes that don't fit us anymore for use by refugees.

Then things will change. If it's TV, you'll see crime-scene tape and flashing lights in front of Fondren apartment complexes. You'll hear from white Houstonians saying they're not prejudiced, but it's a just a fact that Katrina brought a ton of the criminal class, and gang warfare, to our heretofore pristine borders. (Extra points if  disputes between Louisianans and Houstonians at Westbury High are mentioned.)

5. Can it happen again?
This is how most of the stories will end. As if you didn't know the answer, which is "yes."

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