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Liveblogging From RT4: Harry Shearer Keynote

Liveblogging as usual, so keep checking back here for updates.  Also follow the #risingtide and #rt4 hashtags on Twitter.

Harry Shearer takes stage.  “I’m delighted to be anywhere, any time I’m in New Orleans.”  I can’t decide whether it’s Mr. Burns, Smithers or Ned Flanders talking to me and it shakes me to my very pop-culture core.  No, wait, it’s Principal Skinner.


“If they could get Geraldo Rivera in here after the storm, why couldn’t they get food and water in?”

“We have lost the media battle of what happened to us.”  A lot of comments from “people who don’t wish us very well.”  N.B.: In my time in Ohio, I’ve received only one “That city should never have been rebuilt” but not a lot of folks realize that the hurricane did not cause the majority of the damage here and that the whole city is not below sea level.

Laziness of mainstream media: “They did not seem to get to St. Bernard, Lakeview, Gentilly … They get a sense of what the story is, a template [and stick to it].”  Talks about time as a Newsweek reporter sent on “template” assignments, e.g. rooftop living in Los Angeles.

On Johnette Napolitano’s fact-finding visit: “They’ll never be able to build a levee big enough to withstand Katrina?  Really?”  Pssst, visit the Netherlands.  For shame.

On blogging for Huffington Post: “The important point is I have the luxury of not rushing to print with [a story], a luxury a journalist does not have.”

On being conduits for information: “Robert Novak was known, on the one hand, for being a parasitical conduit for his inside sources but there’s a complicated relationship. Every whistleblower has an agenda; no source feeds you information without an agenda.  We have an obligation to … what may elevate us over mainstream journalism is taking a second look at the issue.  If I am going to pass this along to my readers, [I have to let them know] what [the source’s] interest is and what our relationship is.”

The bad news: “At the beginning of the Obama administration, I started getting the same messages from the Left as I was from the Right.  Some of the Obama commenters said, ‘Why are you blowing off steam in the Huffington Post? You’re  a celebrity, go talk to the White House.'”  [Impersonation of Mr. Burns talking to President Obama.]  Recites his odyssey of contacting White House and being rebuffed.  Mentions attending The Dutch Dialogues.  Finally reached “David Washington” and, in two weeks, got a call from the legislative liaison for the Army Corps of Engineers.  *headsmack*  Was advised not to talk to David Axelrod or Rahm Emanuel “because all they want to do is destroy Bobby, just like their predecessors wanted to destroy Kathleen.”

Brian Williams finally told Shearer the truth: “Honestly, we feel that the [raw, contextless] emotional stories are more compelling for our business.”  According to Shearer, the emotional stories are our job.  “Can’t fight water, water always wins. We need to learn to live with water.”  Was this in reference to the Army Corps or nature?  If it was said with respect to nature, it contradicts what he said before.

Shearer is done playing the Inside The Beltway game and intends to write about it (look for upcoming articles /interviews in Times-Pic and WWNO).  Again stresses that bloggers have the luxury of time, to dig up facts and take advantage of those time resources.

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