Thursday, April 27, 2006

C minus. Let's see if you can do better in revision.

With dozens of papers, a neglected family, and a filthy house all awaiting my attention, I clearly have no time to blog.

It's the bad writing, though, that caught my attention. Or maybe it was bad thinking. In my world, they're the same thing.

Let's look at the lead on the "dismantle FEMA" story as presented by the AP:

Hurricane Katrina turned FEMA into a "symbol of a bumbling bureaucracy" so far beyond repair that it should be scrapped, senators said Thursday.
Note the actor in that story: Hurricane Katrina. (Oh, and the photo was clearly chosen because it caught Collins and Lieberman at their best:)

But here's my point: Katrina's a hurricane, people. It can act in all sorts of horrific natural ways, but Katrina isn't to blame for the affairs of men.

I see the AP has brought in its sources for our review. Let's see how that looks:

Excerpts from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee report, "Hurricane Katrina: A Nation Still Unprepared," released Thursday:

_ On the White House:

"The White House failed to grasp the gravity of the situation as it unfolded." Concerns "appear to have gone unheeded by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security in the period prior to Katrina."

_ On Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:

As the storm approached, "Leadership _ direction, encouragement, a sense of purpose and urgency _ was needed. Secretary Chertoff did not provide it. ... Despite knowledge that Katrina was a looming 'nightmare scenario,' DHS Secretary Chertoff failed to adequately prepare the federal government for what became one of the most destructive natural disasters in the nation's history."

_ On the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

"FEMA went to war without enough troops. ... FEMA was unprepared for a catastrophic event on the scale of Katrina. Well before Katrina, FEMA's relationships with state and local officials, once a strength, had been eroded in part because certain preparedness grant programs were transferred elsewhere in the Department of Homeland Security."

_ On then-FEMA chief Michael Brown:

"FEMA's director, Michael Brown, lacked the leadership skills that were needed for his critical position. Before landfall, Brown did not direct the adequate prepositioning of critical personnel and equipment, and willfully failed to communicate with Secretary Chertoff, to whom he was supposed to report."

Notice, class, that in the SOURCE MATERIAL the actors are very different nouns: White House, Chertoff, FEMA, and Brown. The Senate panel didn't accuse Katrina, act of nature, act of God, what have you, of anything. This mess was man-made.

The point, class, is simply this: when we paraphrase, we have to be careful not to change the meaning of the source material.

I'd like to see some revisions by tomorrow, please.

1 comment:

Alanna said...


Ruskin's Pathetic Fallacy comes to mind...