A heartfelt plea from a Houston resident to the journalists covering Hurricane Harvey

A tragedy is unfolding in Texas. What is the media’s role?
A tragedy is unfolding in Texas. What is the media’s role?
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Reporters around the country, including at Quartz, have rushed to cover the aftermath of Hurricane (now tropical storm) Harvey from every possible angle. Many stories have chronicled the tragedy as it unfolds, detailing the devastation and human suffering wrought by the storm, while others have focused on Houstonians’ resilience. Some, like this Quartz piece that ran Aug. 29, have started looking into the causes of the disaster and its potential lessons.

Is it too soon for that kind of detached analysis? For some of Houston’s shell-shocked residents, it is. Here is an email one reader, Sarah Lankau, sent in response to that article, which we’re republishing with her permission.

Ms. Campoy,

Howdy from my flooded city of Houston! I just got done reading your article about the problems we face with development in the wetlands, and let me say that it is spot on. Great research, lots of experts– outstanding journalism, to be certain.

But get this. You’re scrambling to write an “I told you so” article that wags its finger at people who are losing everything. Losing homes. Losing vehicles. Losing property. Losing pets. Losing lives. Losing our city. It’s tone deaf and poorly timed at best, heartless at worst. Please, from someone stuck without power watching water rise around my home downtown, someone who has huddled in her closet with three small children as tornado warning after tornado warning pierce the silence, someone who is seeing the horror unfold through frightened texts from friends trying to escape from their roof while holding an infant, please refrain from analyzing and quantifying our tragedy for likes and retweets at least until the sun comes out, the waters have receded, and we’ve found everyone we’ve lost.

Your position gives you a voice that many can hear. Use it wisely. Use it to research what needs there are and how they can be met. I know it may be asking a lot, but for my city, please let us know that we are more than an event to be coolly observed and analyzed.

Yours from Houston,
Sarah Lankau

What do you think of the local, national, and international media’s coverage of the disaster unfolding in Texas? What’s missing? What’s being overblown? Please share your views with Quartz’s editors here; we’ll use what you say to inform our own reporting, and may publish it if you’re willing for it to be shared more widely.

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