Over the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to reach someone at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give me a status update on my Freedom of Information Act request for a database.
I submitted the request on Oct. 4 and received a response saying the agency was taking a 10-day extension. After that, nothing. As of today, the request is on the verge of being several weeks past the deadline, even with the extension.
After writing e-mails and calling the FEMA FOIA hotline numerous times to get a status update, friends on Twitter pointed out that "Peggy" from USA Prime Credit must be in charge of the agency’s FOIA office.
These past few months, I’ve been consistently reminded why the world needs “traditional” reporters and media institutions.
While media continues to transition into a hard-to-predict, amorphous blob of new technology and evolving mindsets, it’s difficult not to hear folks talking about the death of newspapers and traditional media.
I got the chance last week to watch Page One: Inside the New York Times again. One of my favorite scenes in the documentary is when David Carr is debating the fate of the “main stream media” with Newser founder Michael Wolff. Wolff argued that new media will make institutions such as The New York Times (and The Citizens’ Voice if you’ll forgive the comparison) obsolete.
Capping a humorous exchange, though, Carr pushes a message that he’s repeated several times in the movie: People might cheer the death of mainstream media, but they seldom realize that it’s The New York Times and the Washington Post and those other so-called traditional news outlets that guide the news and poor resources into foreign coverage and in-depth reporting. They put boots on the ground in a way that no new-media start-up is able to do (yet).
So, why do I bring this up? Since our record-breaking September flood, I’ve been more-or-less our designated flood reporter and have had to become much more comfortable with the fact that a lot of the technology I’ve grown to rely on no longer is effective.
After all, you can’t simply pick up the phone and call someone when that person’s home is condemned and the phone is disconnected. I’ve found myself having to rely a lot more on my own two feet, which takes time and a lot more effort.
There have been quite a few times - the most recent being a search for a homeowner who applied for a buyout - where I’ve knocked on more doors in a day than punched numbers on my phone. It’s during those days that I’m reminded that, one, I really love the adventure of finding sources and talking face-to-face with people and, two, if The Citizens’ Voice didn’t provide me with the time and resources to go hit the pavement, who else would?
The New York Times, CNN, Philadelphia Inquirer and several other members of the “mainstream media” sent reporters to Luzerne County for our record-breaking flood.
I don’t recall seeing anyone from Gawker or Newser.