(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
If there's one media lesson to be gleaned from Nashville's ongoing flood tragedy, it is this: don't be a slow-building tragedy. The mainstream media machine [MSM] can't process much that extends beyond, say, 24 hours at the very most. Oh -- and you must have dramatic TV footage at the outset of the tragedy. Maybe a TV announcer bravely holding onto a telephone pole as hurricane winds buffet him.
Instant disaster! That's what the broadcasters and the bloggers crave. The Montcoal cave mining disaster was good for a few days. Now? I see no institutional memory in the MSM. What coal mining disaster? When was that? Did something happen?
The BP oil rig debacle? Dramatic footage for a while there, followed by the pathetic pictures of dying and dead birds and turtles and fish. But the MSM will grow numb to that, and the politicians and the network stumblebums will continue to try to dumb it down, and the ongoing tragedy will fade in the media, even as the actual tragedy and oil flow and damage continue to worsen.
But, I will tell you this, a constant, unrelenting rain in the flyover city of Nashville for 48 hours, followed by slowly rising river waters across a very wide region? Not very sexy for coverage. Not nearly visual enough to do anything with, on TV or anywhere else.
And especially not sexy was the footage of the slowly rising waters beginning to creep up and around majestic buildings and then surrounding and inundating thousands of residential homes. You mean you need stop-motion 24-hour footage to measure the water rise? Forget it! The ratings have already gone south. We're moving on to Miley's new pole-dancing video! That'll bring in some ratings numbers. That'll stir up the yokels.
So that's probably the primary reason why the big Nashville Flood of 2010 got little media attention nationwide as it unfolded. The tragedy just wasn't media-savvy enough to catch the mainstream media's 24-hour eye. It needed a sharp LA PR firm, which it sadly couldn't afford. Finally, Kenny Chesney got Anderson Cooper on the phone, and he woke up and jumped on a plane to get down here. I guess the assignment editors were all asleep. Or drunk. But you know what? We don't need the MSM. Everyone is coping quite well without them.
I think another big reason for the ho-hum attitude from the MSM was the fact that there was not any rampant widespread looting here or even any instances of criminal gangs running amok. No violent crime? Forget it!
Nothing really newsworthy happened in that theater of media. Instead, there were huge numbers of people helping each other and going to extraordinary lengths to do so. Rescuing stranded senior citizens and children, and saving panicked dogs and horses, and citizen volunteers plucking trapped residents by boat from the attics of their flooded homes. And people bringing food and water and comfort aplenty to the afflicted.
But Nashville will go on and keep on going on. It's too mean to die. It has a stubborn will to live. What I've seen during the past few days encourages me and heartens me enormously. The community has rallied. And it has done so in an impressive and very large way.
My own colleagues at CMT, where our building was an early casualty from the extensive downtown flooding and widespread power outage and which remains closed off and without power, have worked by laptop and remote devices from wherever they can to keep us online and on-air and have -- more importantly -- rallied to the support of their own who have lost houses and possessions. They have also reached out in large numbers as volunteers to serve members of the community at large in Middle Tennessee who remain in severe need of help.
And I'm also seeing that same eagerness to help coming from our music community, where artists and industry workers are planning benefit concerts and fundraising efforts to help, especially to boost the many thousands of residents who did not have flood insurance and to assist all the victims of this devastating event.
So, ultimately, Nashville will survive and the music industry and community here will continue and flourish. And the music, from mainstream country to Americana to roots to Christian to rock and everything else, will continue to stream on proudly from here to the world.
Thanks for listening.
View photos of the Nashville flood.
Learn how you can help with the recent flooding conditions in Nashville.