Thursday, October 13, 2016

Local Student Group Scores Post-Flood Headlines

Front page of MMU Times.
What did you think of the flood of 2016? What did you think of the media’s coverage of the event? How did you learn your information about the flood? What Cedar Rapids or Iowa media outlets did well or poorly in covering the story? Did you watch daily briefings live from the city of CR on social media?

I’m not asking for no reason—I’m interested in gathering information on the flood of 2016 media coverage to write about it. And I’m writing about one small aspect of that media coverage today.

It’s interesting to see how a detail of one story will sometimes grow beyond expectations. Such is the case of one point in the flood of 2016 aftermath. The Cedar Rapids flood narrative is the heroic tale of a city coming together and working shoulder-to-shoulder to save the city. It’s a cool narrative, and there is some fire behind that smoke, although it’s also true Mother Nature was kind to us in that the flood crest this fall was below expectations—in sharp contrast to the disaster of 2008 when the crest exceeded all predictions.

Anyway, the Mount Mercy University business club, Enactus, led by the Energizer Bunny, professor Dr. Nate Klein, was engaged in that sandbagging effort. And students in the club were talking about what would happen to the all the sandbags.

Post flood, the club came up with the idea of turning sandbags into commemorative handbags. And it staged several bag emptying events, which turned out to be catnip to the media. TV needs video. KCRG covered the story, twice. The story was also covered by KWWL. On Saturday, Oct. 8, The Gazette featured it on its front page.

Photo by Liz Martin of the Gazette, posted on their web site, Derick Siddell in U Center.
Audio from the KCRG story was picked up by Iowa Public Radio and run statewide on its noon news show, River to River. The story was also posted on Radio Iowa’s site, although I didn’t hear any Radio Iowa news reports on air—but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some.

Closer look at Times story.

Even the MMU Times, the student newspaper of Mount Mercy University, featured the Enactus effort on its front page.

A student, Derrick Siddell, became the sort of public face of the Enactus in this story. Nate the Great was also recorded, but most media stores found Derrick irresistible.

Well, good for you, Enactus. It’s a good thing that you’re doing. I think the media buzz is a bit out of proportion for the importance of the story, and probably reflects a hunger for more “good news” out of this potential natural disaster, but then again, I don’t fault the MMU group for that. The story brought positive media attention to the university where I teach. So, kudos.

And the Enactus sandbag saga shows that, even on a local level, an aside of a main event can sometimes take on a life of its own and become a new narrative.

What else did you observe about the media and the flood of 2016? Please comment.