NY Times Buries Expert: Level of Funding Not a 'Contributing Factor' to Levee Break

September 2nd, 2005 7:20 AM
No, this isn’t about Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman. That’s too easy. It’s about a story on flooding in New Orleans today (1 September). Here’s the lede:

“The 17th Street levee that gave way and led to the flooding of New Orleans was part of an intricate, aging system of barriers and pumps that was so chronically underfinanced that senior regional officials of the Army Corps of Engineers complained about it publicly for years.”

The second and third paragraphs say:

“Often leading the chorus was Alfred C. Naomi, a senior project manager for the corps... [who] grew particularly frustrated this year as the Gulf Coast braced for what forecasters said would be an intense hurricane season and a nearly simultaneous $71 million cut was announced in the New Orleans district budget to guard against such storms.”

Here’s the source: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/01/national/nationalspecial/01levee.html?hp&ex=1125547200&en=8ee34432ae4fa984&ei=5094&partner=homepage

Not until the ninth paragraph does the story imply (but fail to state) that budget cut – even if the intended work could have been done instantaneously, had nothing to do with the flooding. It quotes an expert “at the University of New Orleans, [who] said that was particularly surprising because the break was ‘along a section that was just upgraded.’ ”

The implication, gleefully trumpeted by rabid Democrats, is that George Bush caused the destruction of New Orleans. Not until paragraph 16 does the article note the system was only designed to protect against a Category 3 storm. It neglects to mention that decision was made by local officials, all Democrats.

For the truth, see a Chicago Tribune article the same day. Its lede says: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that a lack of funding for hurricane-protection projects around New Orleans did not contribute to the disastrous flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.”

The Tribune notes the decision to build the levees for a Category 3 storm was “made decades ago.” Next, it says, “ ‘I don't see that the level of funding was really a contributing factor in this case,’ said Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, chief of engineers for the corps. ‘Had this project been fully complete, it is my opinion that based on the intensity of this storm that the flooding of ... [New Orleans] would have still taken place.’ ”

Here’s the source: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1475305/posts

A competent reporter would have discovered that fact. And honest reporter would have put that fact in or near the lede. The Times failed on both points.

As for possible rioting and theft by Times employees, that was a joke. I assume they steal office supplies year round.